Issue 50 - Hoax-Slayer Newsletter
Issue 50: April, 2005
This month in Hoax-Slayer:
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Superheated Water In Microwave Can Explode - Email Warning
The core information contained in the email forward quoted below is true. Water superheated in a microwave oven can indeed "blow-up" under certain conditions. That is, the superheated liquid can be explosively ejected from its container and potentially cause injury to a person in close proximity.
As noted in the email, a specific set of circumstances is necessary to cause microwaved water to explode in this manner. In an article about superheating and microwave ovens
, Professor Joe Wolfe
of the University of New South Wales notes that such events can take place when the following conditions are present (quoted material in green):
- Using a container with a very smooth surface, such as an unscratched glass or glazed container.
- Heating for too long.
- Quickly adding a powder, such as instant coffee (or sometimes even an object to stir it).
- Standing with one's face above the container makes injury more likely.
Professor Wolfe's article graphically illustrates the result of superheating water in a microwave in the form of a video of such an event occurring.
Superheating occurs when the liquid is heated to a temperature greater than its normal boiling point. Wolfe explains that the "superheated state is unstable, and it can very rapidly turn into liquid at the boiling point, plus a substantial quantity of vapour.
Thankfully, some simple precautions can minimize the chance of injury due to superheating. Professor Wolfe suggests the following strategy for avoiding superheating related injuries (quoted material in green):
- Before putting the water into the oven, insert a non-metal object with a surface that is not smooth. (e.g. a wooden stirrer. A wooden skewer or icecream stick will do.)
- Use a container whose surface is at least a little scratched.
- Do not heat for longer than the recommended time for the quantity of water used.
- Tap the outside of the container a few times with a solid object while it is still in the oven. Use a long object so that your hand remains outside the oven. Alternatively, and still keeping your hand outside the oven, insert a stirrer while the container is still in the oven. (Thus, if vigorous boiling occurs, most of the boiling water will strike the inside of the oven.)
- Keep your face well away from the open oven door and from the container.
The information in this email can be considered a valid warning for microwave users. However, like many email forwards of this nature, it also contains anecdotal information that lessens its credibility. The "26-year old man" is not identified, nor is the "local science teacher". There is no way of verifying if these are real people or just fictional constructs added to drive home the point. Also, there is no way of confirming if someone from General Electric actually responded in the manner outlined since no name or contact details are supplied. Unfortunately, this unverifiable information, along with the dubious exhortation to "pass on" the message, will probably convince many recipients that the email is just another hoax.
In summary, the information in this message is verifiably true and certainly worth knowing. However, a more concise message that sticks closely to verifiable facts and includes checkable references is likely to be taken more seriously and reach a wider audience.
FDA Article: Risk of Burns from Eruptions of Hot Water Overheated in Microwave Ovens
How Things Work: Microwave Ovens
Coffee "Boil Over"
A 26-year old man decided to have a cup of coffee. He took a cup of water and put it in the microwave to heat it up (something that he had done numerous times before). I am not sure how long he set the timer for, but he wanted to bring the water to a boil. When the timer shut the oven off, he removed the cup from the oven. As he looked into the cup, he noted that the water was not boiling, but suddenly the water in the cup "blew up" into his face. The cup remained intact until he threw it out of his hand, but all the water had flown out into his face due to the build up of energy. His whole face is blistered and he has 1st and 2nd degree burns to his face which may leave scarring.
He also may have lost partial sight in his left eye. While at the hospital, the doctor who was attending to him stated that this is a fairly common occurrence and water (alone) should never be heated in a microwave oven. If water is heated in this manner, something should be placed in the cup to diffuse the energy such as a wooden stir stick, tea bag, etc., (nothing metal).
It is however a much safer choice to boil the water in a tea kettle.
General Electric's Response:
Thanks for contacting us, I will be happy to assist you. The e-mail that you received is correct. Microwaved water and other liquids do not always bubble when they reach the boiling point. They can actually get superheated and not bubble at all. The superheated liquid will bubble up out of the cup when it is moved or when something like a spoon or tea bag is put into it.
To prevent this from happening and causing injury, do not heat any liqui d for more than two minutes per cup. After heating, let the cup stand in the microwave for thirty seconds before moving it or adding anything into it.
Here is what our local science teacher had to say on the matter: "Thanks for the microwave warning. I have seen this happen before. It is caused by a phenomenon known as super heating. It can occur anytime water is heated and will particularly occur if the vessel that the water is heated in is new, or when heating a small amount of water (less than half a cup).
What happens is that the water heats faster than the vapor bubbles can form. If the cup is very new then it is unlikely to have small surface scratches inside it that provide a place for the bubbles to form. As the bubbles cannot form and release some of the heat has built up, the liquid does not boil, and the liquid continues to heat up well past its boiling point.
What then usually happens is that the liquid is bumped or jarred, which is just enough of a shock to cause the bubbles to rapidly form and expel the hot liquid. The rapid formation of bubbles is also why a carbonated beverage spews when opened after having been shaken."
If you pass this on you could very well save someone from a lot of pain and suffering.
Thank You Very Much.
Identify Stoke Email - Three Simple Questions
The procedure for identifying a stroke that is outlined in this email forward is valid. According to information available on the American Stroke Association's website, the three questions outlined in the email are a medically viable method for a layperson to ascertain if a person is presenting with stroke symptoms.
The procedure was originally outlined in a report
to the American Stroke Association's 28th International Stroke Conference. The report states that a bystander may be able to spot someone having a stroke by giving the person a simple, quick test to see if they can smile, raise both arms and keep them up, and speak a simple sentence coherently...
Certainly, the core information in the email is worth heeding. Knowing how to conduct this simple test could indeed save a person's life. The aforementioned report explains that if bystanders can relay results of this test to an emergency dispatcher, it could speed treatment to stroke patients. Time is crucial in treating stroke.
America's National Stroke Association lists the following
as common symptoms of stroke:
- Sudden numbness or weakness of face, arm or leg, especially on one side of the body
- Sudden confusion, trouble speaking or understanding
- Sudden trouble seeing in one or both eyes
- Sudden trouble walking, dizziness,
loss of balance or coordination
- Sudden severe headache with no known cause
Given this list of symptoms, it is easy to see how the simple three-question test could help identify a stroke.
While the central information in the email is true, it appears that someone has seen fit to embellish the story by adding a description of an alleged incident in which the diagnostic test was used to good effect. However, there is no way of telling if "Susie" and "Sherry" are real people or just fictional characters designed to emphasize the information and add a folksy element to the message. Interestingly, the sentence, "A cardiologist says if everyone who gets this e-mail sends it to 10 people, you can bet that at least one life will be saved" is lifted verbatim from a hoax email that outlines a dubious "cough CPR" procedure
for heart attack victims. Notably, earlier versions of the email did not include the "Susie and Sherry" story.
In any case, such embellishments are completely unnecessary and detract from the underlying message. A problem with email forwards is that the core information tends to become garbled or diluted as various individuals decide to add to or modify the message as it travels through cyberspace. For example, the current version implies that stumbling is potentially a key element in diagnosing a stroke. However, there is nothing about stumbling mentioned in the Stroke Association report. Although the NSA does identify loss of balance and difficulty walking as potential stroke symptoms, stumbling alone is hardly a valid indicator of an impending stroke.
This unfortunate tendency for messages to mutate as they travel means that it may not always be a good idea to pass on even those rare email forwards that contain factual and verifiable information. However, if you do decide to forward this email, I would suggest that you first remove the superfluous information it contains. I think it would also be a good idea to add a link to the original source so that recipients can check the information for themselves. The link to the American Stroke Association report is included below:
Subject: Is it a stroke?
A true story -
Susie is recouping at an incredible pace for someone with a massive stroke - all because Sherry saw Susie stumble - -that is the key that isn't mentioned below - and then she asked Susie the 3 questions. So simple - - this literally saved Susie's life - - I received this very same e-mail the week Susie had her stroke. Some angel sent it to me and I did just what it said to do. She failed all
three and I did call 911. Even though she had normal blood pressure readings and did not appear to be a stroke as she could converse to some extent with the Paramedics they took her to the hospital right away.
I thank God for the sense to remember the 3 steps!
Read and Learn!
SOMETHING WE ALL NEED TO KNOW, IS IT A STROKE?
Sometimes symptoms of a stroke are difficult to
identify. Unfortunately, the lack of awareness spells disaster.
The stroke victim may suffer brain damage when people nearby fail to
recognize the symptoms of a stroke. Now doctors say a bystander
can recognize a stroke by asking three simple questions:
*Ask the individual to SMILE.
*Ask him or her to RAISE BOTH ARMS.
*Ask the person to SPEAK A SIMPLE SENTENCE.
If he or she has trouble with any of these tasks, call 9-1-1 immediately and describe the symptoms to the dispatcher.
After discovering that a group of nonmedical volunteers could identify facial weakness, arm weakness and speech problems, researchers urged the general public to learn the three questions.
They presented their conclusions at the American Stroke Association's
annual meeting last February. Widespread use of this test could result in prompt diagnosis and treatment of the stroke and prevent brain damage.
A cardiologist says if everyone who gets this e-mail
sends it to 10 people, you can bet that at least one life will be saved.
BE A FRIEND AND SHARE THIS ARTICLE WITH AS MANY
FRIENDS AS POSSIBLE.
It could save their lives!
Are Email Petitions Useful?
If you have been using email for any length of time, at some point you have probably received an email in the form of a petition. The message requests you to "sign" the petition by adding your name before sending it on to others in your address book. Emails of this nature generally contain a few paragraphs of text explaining the purpose and intended goals of the petition as well as instructions about how to sign and forward the message. Such email-based petitions have focused on a large variety of causes.
I am often asked if such petitions have any value. Well, in my opinion, they are completely worthless. Here's why:
- Name lists on email petitions are very easy to forge:
Very often, to "sign" an email petition you simply add your name and perhaps some geographic information such as the name of the city you live in. However, the person targeted by the petition has no way of knowing if the names are genuine. It would be exceptionally easy for a person to make up lists of bogus names or even copy and paste names from other sources. For example, an enterprising armchair activist could copy whole lists of names from unrelated email petitions and add them to his or her petition before forwarding it. In fact, a person who cared strongly about a particular issue could add hundreds of names to an email petition with very little work.
This forgery factor is a major reason why people such as government officials who are the intended target of email petitions are quite unlikely to give them much credence. Normally, there is no viable way for the recipient of the petition to verify names on the list. Nor can it be determined whether a list was signed by the person named or added without his or her consent. Regardless of the medium used, a credible petition must contain verifiable information about those who sign it.
- Privacy and security issues:
Occasionally email petitions do ask recipients for more details such as an email address or even a street address. While this might give more credence to the petition, it is also a quite unacceptable security risk. An email petition could end up anywhere, including the inboxes of spammers or fraudsters. Adding personal information such as a full name and street address to any email that is likely to be forwarded is an unsafe practice.
- Email petitions often contain false or outdated information:
Another serious problem with email petitions is that the cause they are protesting against may not even be valid. Email petitions are often based on misinformation. A classic example is the long running bonsai kittens petition. This email calls for the authorities to stop the practice of creating "bonsai kittens". Supposedly, creating a bonsai kitten involves thrusting a living cat into a glass jar to restrict its growth. While such a horrible practice would certainly be worthy of protest, bonsai kittens are nothing more than an urban myth. No one is making bonsai kittens. The story derives from a satirical website that has bonsai kittens as its subject.
Another popular email petition protests against the imminent release of the boys who killed toddler Jamie Bulger. While this was a true case, the petition is hopelessly outdated. These boys were released several years ago, so the continued circulation of the message is simply a waste of bandwidth. There are many other examples. Email petitions can continue to circulate and collect names long after the cause in question has become irrelevant. Indeed, if the petition was originally based on a false premise, it may have never been relevant.
- Email petitions may never reach their target:
A lot of email petitions instruct you to forward the petition to a specific email address once the list reaches a given number of names. This might be the email address of a politician or an organization related to the cause in question. However, there is no guarantee that anybody in authority will actually get to view the petition. If the same petition emails, albeit with different names included, are being repeatedly sent to a government department or other large organization I think there is a good chance that they will be simply deleted before they are read.
Also, the email address provided in the petition may not be valid because it was incorrectly transcribed, it has been changed during subsequent forwarding, or it has been disabled. This means that the compiled list of names will bounce and never reach its target.
Amazingly, some email petitions have no specific target at all. In 2002, a vague email protesting racism was signed and forward by many people around the world even though it did not specify any particular person or organization as the target of the petition. The petition simply circulated aimlessly around cyberspace collecting names for no good reason.
- Email petitions can be counter productive:
A more subtle danger of email petitions is that they can effectively defang a person's desire to take constructive action concerning a cause they believe in. The almost too simple act of "signing" and forwarding an email petition can give the sender a false sense of having "done" something to help "the cause" and they may be less likely to become involved in more worthwhile approaches to the problem at hand.
In summary, think twice about "signing" and forwarding email petitions. There are much more effective ways of bringing attention to a problem and registering your protest. You could contact a relevant person directly and outline your grievances. You could also write Letters to the Editor, start a legitimate petition or even organize a demonstration, to name just a few options.
If you still feel that signing and sending an email petition is worth the effort, then at least take the time to check if the information in the email is actually factual and current before proceeding.
Michael Jackson Died Years Ago Hoax
Email claims that Michael Jackson actually died many years ago and that the star's decayed body has recently been discovered buried at the Neverland Ranch. It suggests that an "other worldly" impostor has been playing the role of Michael Jackson for a number of years (Full commentary below.
False - This is part of a fake "news report" that began circulating in 2005. The report was originally published by the satirical website "The Onion".
(Submitted, July 2009)
Subject: SHOCKING NEWS
SANTA BARBARA, CA -During a search for evidence at the Neverland Valley Ranch, investigators discovered a corpse that has been identified as that of Michael Jackson, Santa Barbara police officials announced Tuesday.
"Coroners have officially pronounced Michael Jackson dead. From what we can tell, he died between 18 and 20 years ago," forensic investigator Tim Holbrooke said. "We are not certain, at this time, who-or what-has been standing trial in that Santa Maria courthouse."
According to Holbrooke, Jackson 's corpse was buried just inches below a stretch of the miniature-train tracks that run throughout Neverland. The largely desiccated corpse wore the remains of a red, zipper-covered leather jacket and a single glove.
"We positively identified the body as Jackson by his dental records and DNA," Holbrooke said. "But even before we conducted a single forensic test, we began to suspect that that we'd uncovered the real Michael, and that the disturbing figure claiming to be Jackson was a fake."
Holbrooke said that, although the corpse was in an advanced stage of decomposition, when investigators compared the body to early-career publicity photos of Jackson , they saw a striking resemblance in bone structure and facial features. But when they compared the body to photos taken after 1987, the resemblance was negligible.
"This discovery raises a lot of questions, but it also sheds light on a number of disturbing incidents," Holbrooke said. "Frankly, Jackson had been acting pretty strange."
Forensic experts and music critics are postulating that Jackson was dead before the release of the multi-platinum album Bad. Detectives are currently analyzing the lyrics to "Man In The Mirror" for any clues relating to a look-alike entity that many suspect murdered the youngest member of the Jackson 5 and assumed his identity.
"We believe that Neverland served as some sort of freakishly whimsical tomb constructed by Jackson 's killer," Holbrooke said. "We also suspect that all of the iniquities that occurred on that ranch were the work of the imposter. I wouldn't have ever thought it possible, but we are looking at a situation where the sexual abuse of a 13-year-old cancer patient is the tip of the iceberg."
Holbrooke said that, while the living Jackson is the leading suspect in the murder investigation, he "could be another victim of some sort."
"Basically, we have no idea what type of creature we are dealing with," Holbrooke said.
A member of the investigative team that discovered Jackson 's body described the experience as "otherworldly."
"As we neared the perimeter of Neverland, the dogs started whining and howling like crazy," Santa Barbara County detective Frank Poeller said. "We had to pull them into the house. When we got to Jackson 's bedroom, one of them almost choked himself to death on his leash trying to get out through the window. Minutes later, the same dog led us to the corpse."
A representative from Jackson 's self-created label, MJJ Productions, said he was not surprised to find out that the current Jackson is an imposter.
"When we were recording 'Heal The World' for Dangerous, I could tell something was terribly, terribly wrong," MJJ manager Luke Allard said. "Michael didn't seem like himself anymore. He'd demand bizarre food and sit for hours in a hyperbaric chamber. His appearance began to become more and more peculiar. Soon afterwards, he started wearing a mask and confiding in a chimpanzee."
"I remember thinking, 'This man has become a monster,'" Allard said. "If only I'd known how right I was."
Back in 2005, an email began circulating that claimed that the real Michael Jackson was dead and that an impostor, possibly of supernatural origin, had taken his place. Of course, these claims are untrue. Soon after Michael Jackson really did pass away in June 2009, this old satirical piece once again gained momentum and began circulating rapidly around the world.
The message is disguised to resemble a genuine news report and includes images of the supposed discovery of Jackson's body and "the creature that claims to be Michael Jackson". According to this "news report" the corpse of the real Michael Jackson was found buried under miniature-train tracks at Jackson's Neverland Ranch. Supposedly, forensic tests indicated that the body has been there for many years. The story implies that the entity later claiming to be Michael Jackson was in fact an otherworldly figure - perhaps a demon.
It hardly needs to be stated that there is not even a shred of truth in this ridiculous and far-fetched tale. The story is satire, and was presumably intended to amuse and entertain. This tale originated from a feature published on the satirical news site, The Onion
When viewed in it's original context on The Onion website, it was quite clear that the story was satirical and not intended to report a real incident. In fact, all stories featured on the Onion website are satirical in nature. Unfortunately, because the story began circulating in the form of a sourceless email forward, some credulous recipients actually believe the story to be true in spite of its fantastic claims. And the June 2009 demise of Michael Jackson has apparently breathed new life into this tired and tasteless old hoax. Hopefully, a closer examination of the information in the message should reveal its satirical nature to even the most gullible of readers.
Although some might still find the piece amusing, Jackson's family and his legions of fans around the world are unlikely to share that amusement.
Spam Filtering Woes (Subscribers Please Read)
Spam filters are a reasonably efficient means of stemming the
tide of garbage email that inundates our inboxes. There are
decent client-side email filtering applications freely available
online and more ISPís are now offering server-side spam filtering
to their customers. Such spam-control options represent a welcome
addition to the weapons available for use in the war against spam.
However, spam filters have a downside. Too often, spam filters
have a tendency to throw the baby out with the bathwater. That
is, legitimate email gets falsely flagged as spam or malicious
content and may be blocked or discarded before the recipient gets
to read it.
Unfortunately, the Hoax-Slayer Newsletter is especially vulnerably
to this false filtering because of its subject matter. Usually,
the articles I feature in the newsletter include examples of spam,
scam or hoax emails. Spam-filtering software is not always
sophisticated enough to differentiate between real spam and
legitimate warnings about such spam that includes examples.
Naturally, any examples included in the newsletter are completely
harmless plain text transcriptions of the originals and do not
contain any malicious payload or active links. However, some
server-side antivirus software is now blocking suspected phisher
scam emails apparently based primarily on the text of these scam
messages. Thus, if the newsletter includes an example of a phisher
scam email it may be blocked before it reaches the subscriber's
inbox. While this is understandable, it does represent something
of a dilemma for me as a newsletter publisher. If I leave out the
examples, the message I am attempting to convey will probably be
less effective. If I include examples, I know that some subscribers
will not get to see the newsletter because it has been blocked by
their ISP or incorrectly sent to their spam folder.
Although the percentage of subscribers that are currently being
affected by this problem is still low, I can see that the problem
will get worse as more people and ISPís implement spam filtering
options. Therefore, I am making some minor changes that should
help to counteract this false-filtering problem:
1. Most of the time, I will still include examples of hoaxes,
scam and spam emails in the emailed version of the newsletter.
However, if I am writing about a scam email that is especially
likely to trigger anti-malware filters, I will only include the
example in the online version of the newsletter. The emailed
version will simply provide a link to this example.
2. A day or so after I post the newsletter, I will send a second,
very brief email that just informs recipients that the online
version of the newsletter is ready for viewing and provides a
link to this version. This second posting is unlikely to trigger
any spam filters since it will not contain any examples of hoax,
scam or spam emails. Thus, just about all subscribers with a
working email address will have access to the newsletter in one
way or another.
Hopefully, these changes will not unduly inconvenience
subscribers. I predict that spam-filtering software will become
increasingly sophisticated over time and a lot of these false
filtering issues will be remedied. In the mean time, just keep
in mind that not everything that is flagged by your spam filter
is necessarily junk mail.
Little Tsunami Victim Email Still Circulating
Back in January 2005 an email began circulating that described the
plight of a little girl caught in the Asian tsunami and included
a heart wrenching photograph of the child. The email asked
recipients to pass the message on in the hope that someone would
be able to identify her. The information in the email was true.
However, soon after the email began circulating, the child was
identified as 10 year-old Sophia Michl from Germany. Sophia is
no longer in Phuket hospital. Thankfully, she is now safe and back
in Germany. Therefore the continued forwarding of the email is
Email and the Internet can be a powerful method of rapidly rolling
out information to a diverse audience. In fact, email and the
Internet helped reunite little Hannes Bergstroem
, with his family.
Hannes was another child victim of the tsunami.
However, email forwards of this nature have a down side. They tend
to circulate long after the child has been found and/or the case
resolved. The email about little Sophia is a case in point.
Submissions indicate that the email continues to circulate widely
and is beginning to mutate as it travels. I have now seen several
slightly different versions of the email. Predictably, it will
continue its pointless journey through cyberspace for months or
years to come. Often, once factual information in such emails
becomes hopelessly scrambled or outdated. Ultimately, these email
forwards become just another piece of junk mail. They can also
diffuse the power of valid missing person emails, because many
recipients tend to dismiss all of these types of emails as hoaxes.
Since many missing person emails - such as the Penny Brown hoax
really are hoaxes, this is not surprising.
Before forwarding an email of this nature, it is wise to check the
veracity of the information it contains. Searching an online news
source such as Google News will often provide information about
the current status of a missing person.
Orphaned Tsunami Kids Return Home
This little girl is at the PHUKET HOSPITAL
She does not remember her own name or anything!
She has lost her parents, please forward this E-MAIL to all your
contacts someone might realize who she is.
She was a victim when she got caught in tidal wave disaster in
PhuketThailand and nobody knows who she is.
So we are hoping if we distribute this E-MAIL around the world
someone God willing will know her.
Please don't break the chain your contribution could be the one
that solves this little girls problem
Let's help!! Forward to everyone whoever is foreigner or not.
Schapelle Corby Email Petition
The case described in the email petition below is a real one.
There seems to be quite a lot of evidence that Schapelle Corby is
an innocent victim of callous drug smugglers. In my opinion, even
if she is indeed guilty as charged, she should not face death by
firing squad for this charge.
Having said that, I do not believe that an email petition is a
very effective method of helping Schapelle Corby. Email petitions
of this nature are virtually useless. For more about the value of
email petitions see the article above.
Hopefully, this case will have a desirable outcome. In the mean
time, I would suggest that signing this petition is a waste of
time. Other methods of pressuring the Australian Government about
this issue are likely to be significantly more effective than this
email petition. Instead of "signing" this email, you could contact
your local member regarding the issue, write to or email Alexander
Downer directly, or even start and/or sign a valid petition that
may actually have some credibility with those in authority.
Schapelle Corby has been detained in a Balinese prison and now awaits sentencing from a panel of judges on whether she will be committed to the death penalty, by a firing squad, for allegedly attempting to import four kilograms of cannabis into Indonesia.
It is disgusting and barbaric in this day and age that a 'death
Penalty by firing squad' law exists, and that an Australian citizen should be subject to it. This law is out-dated and inhumane, and considering that convicted terrorist Abu Bakar Bashir has only been sentenced to two years and six months jail (with the prospect of appeal) for his proven 'conspiracy' participation in the Bali bombings that killed 183 people, in the same country, it is inconsistent and absurd that another person should face the death penalty for allegedly smuggling cannabis into the country. Furthermore, the Australian Government and airlines should be taking more responsibility for this incident in any case, since it is the fault of the Australian airlines/airport that the drugs even left Australia in the first place - which also leaves us to ponder on the security and possible internal corruption of staff working at Australian airports, in light of drug smuggling and terrorism. We the undersigned demand that the Australian Government, and Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, act responsibly to ensure that, innocent or guilty, Schapelle Corby is returned to Australia and that she does NOT face the 'death penalty by firing Squad' in Indonesia.
Instructions: Please number and place your name at the end of this list. Then forward this email to all of your contacts who support basic human rights and justice. If you are the 50th person on this list, please forward this email to the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Alexander Downer, at email@example.com and then clear the list of names back to number 1, place your name there and forward to all of your contacts.
Thank you for your assistance in attempting to save Schapelle Corby.
[LIST OF NAMES REMOVED]
AOL 100,000 Signatures Hoax
The information in the hoax message quoted below is completely untrue. AOL currently has no plans to start charging for its Instant Messaging service.
This absurd email hoax has been around in one form or another since at least 1999. The latest version is virtually identical to earlier incarnations except that a new deadline date has been added. From time to time, someone adds a more current date to the hoax message, and in some cases, a change in the number of signatures required. Thus "refreshed", the new version once again gains momentum, duping the unwary as it travels from inbox to inbox.
If AOL did decide to start charging for their IM service, it certainly wouldn't base this decision on how many email "signatures" it received before a specified date. A decision to start charging for a popular free service would only be implemented as a result of a well-researched business strategy. AOL would not try to gauge consumer reaction to such a charge by mounting a haphazard and unprofessional email petition on the subject. In any case, even when they are based on legitimate issues, email petitions are of very little value
Besides, the email implies that AOL will supposedly be able to magically keep a count of how many people have participated in the "petition". The message claims that each person the email is sent to counts as one "signature". Presumably, therefore, AOL would need to implement some means of keeping track of how many emails were actually sent. Such an exercise on the scale required would be logistically impossible not to mention ethically questionable.
The inherent stupidity of this email message should really be enough to clearly identify it as just a foolish prank and thereby calm the fears of AOL's army of loyal IM users. However, if any doubt remains, AOL has publicly denounced
these messages as hoaxes via its online help files. The help file includes the following disclaimer:
"If you received e-mail informing you of AOL's plan to charge for the Instant Message (IM) feature or remove it from the service, the e-mail that you received is a hoax. Any allegation that America Online is planning to start charging for or take away the IM feature is false."
AOL is not the only target of such hoaxes.
Similar prank emails
have claimed that Hotmail or Yahoo accounts will be terminated unless the messages are forwarded.
Dear America Online and Instant Messages users:
Our America online staff is planning to take away IM by July
18th, 2005. If you want to keep our IM free of charge, send this email to
everyone you know. It will be used as a petition. Each person you send
this to counts as one "signature" If this petition gets 100,000 signatures
they will keep AOL IM.
If they do not receive 100,000 votes you will have to pay 15.00 to have IM
(per month). If you don't care about this then please for everyone's
sake help out a little. Thank you for your time and consideration and
please help AOL beat their vote.
An earlier example:
America On-line and Instant Messages users:
Our America on-line staff is planning to take away IM by May 9th, 2002. If you want to keep our IM free of charge, send this email to everyone you know. It will be used as a petition. Each person you send this to counts as one "signature" If this petition gets 100,000 signatures they will keep AOL IM. If they do not receive 100,000 votes you will have to pay $15.00 to have IM (per month). If you don't care about this then please for everyone's sake help out a little. Thank you for your time and consideration and please help beat their vote send it to more people.
Yearly Internet Maintenance Prank Email
This prank email gets trundled out for another run every year as the 1st April approaches. And every year it nets new victims who indiscriminately believe what they read. Some people have a tendency to skim read messages and therefore fail to pick up on the fact that the message is just a joke. Perhaps the moral of the story is to make sure you read a message thoroughly and think about what you've read before acting upon the information it contains.
For the record, the Internet is not nor could it ever be effectively "closed down" for 24 hours. The logistics of such an exercise are mind-boggling. What's more it would most likely have a nasty and far-reaching impact on the world economy.
YEARLY INTERNET MAINTENANCE ANNOUNCEMENT
IT IS URGENT THAT YOU DO NOT CONNECT TO THE INTERNET FROM MARCH 31st 23:59
GMT (11:59 PM) UNTIL 00:01 GMT (12:01 AM) APRIL 2nd.
It's that time again. As many of you know, each year the Internet must be
closed down for a 24 hour period of time in order to receive maintenance, or
a "Tune Up" if you will.
Many dead links on the World Wide Web will be removed, as well as ftp links
that are no longer used. Lost email will also be removed from the system at
this time. The White House is very interested in this part of the project.
In addition to the normal maintenance to be completed this year, we will
also be using new high pressure information jets to clear out the
bottlenecks that have plagued the internet so greatly this past year.
Although the down time for maintenance will be an inconvenience for many
people, you will find this will allow for a much more efficient and faster
This year, the "Tune Up" will occur from 23:59 GMT (11:59 PM) on March 31st
until 00:01 GMT (12:01 AM) on April 2nd. During that 24 hour period, dozens
of powerful Internet bots at key locations around the globe will
simultaneously scan the Internet and complete the desired maintenance jobs
wherever they may be required.
To help protect any valuable data you may have on the Internet from possible
corruption, we highly recommend you take the following steps before this 24
hour maintenance period begins:
1. Disconnect all terminals and LANs from the Internet.
2. Disconnect all Internet servers from the Internet.
3. Refrain from connecting any computer, or any other Internet connection
device, to the Internet in any way.
Note: The term "other Internet connection device" includes such devices as
Again, we understand the inconvenience this will cause many people. And for
that, we apologize. However, the great increase in Internet performance you
will experience after this short period of maintenance will far outweigh
any problems it will cause.
This message comes to you from the Internet via your Internet Service
Hoax-Slayer Humour: Anti-Email Hoax Animation
A Hoax-Slayer reader submitted the following:
Hello Friends at Hoax,
This is a link, which is basically a confirmation of your work.
Enjoy and keep up the good work.
This little animation is pretty funny and also carries a serious
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©Brett M. Christensen, 2008
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