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Issue 51 - Hoax-Slayer Newsletter

Issue 51: May, 2005

This month in Hoax-Slayer:
Read Previous Issues


Hoax-Slayer is a Free Monthly Web-Based Newsletter brought to you by Brett Christensen

The Hoax-Slayer Newsletter keeps you informed about the latest email hoaxes and current Internet scams. Hoax-Slayer also features anti-spam tips, computer security information, pertinent articles and more.

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Weird Photo of Suckling Mother and Babies

Summary:
Photograph depicts a bizarre family of strange hybrid-human creatures, including a mother and suckling babies.

Status:
The photograph is of an artist's sculpture and is not an image of real creatures.

Example:(Submitted, May 2005)
Subject: FW: What in the world is this????????????????????

Weird!
It's a cow?
It's a dog?
No, it's a pig.
Weird Photo of Suckling Mother and Babies


Commentary:
This rather intriguing photograph is currently circulating via email. The photograph arrives with one of a variety of messages that speculate on what strange creatures the image actually depicts. Does it show some weird half pig half human family? Is it a human dog? Is it a photograph that has been cleverly altered with an image manipulation program?

In fact, there is no mystery. The photograph shows a sculpture by artist Patricia Piccinini. The sculpture named "The Young Family", was part of the We are Family exhibition displayed in the Australian Pavilion of the 50th Biennale of Venice in 2003.

More information about Patricia Piccinini and her work is available on the artist's website.

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New PayPal Phisher Scam

The email shown below is NOT from online payment service, PayPal. The email looks very convincing and includes seemingly official logos and text designed to fool recipients into believing that it is a legitimate message from PayPal.

The message claims that PayPal customers are required to log into their account and update billing information or risk having their account suspended. Recipients are urged to click a link in the fraudulent email. This link leads to a bogus website that is cleverly disguised to resemble a real PayPal Login page. Victims who login to this fake web page are asked to provide sensitive personal information including credit card details and addresses.

Information entered into the form can be collected by the criminals running this scam and used in fraudulent transactions or to steal the victim's identity.

PayPal would never send an email asking customers to provide sensitive information such as credit card details. The company has more information about these phisher scam emails on its website.


Important Note:

Phisher scammers target many financial institutions and online entities almost continually. At any one time, there may be a number of different scam email versions all directed at a particular bank or online company. The purpose of this article is to warn visitors that a particular institution is being targeted and to provide an example of the type of scam emails being distributed.

Be wary of any email that asks you to provide sensitive personal information such as banking details. Most legitimate companies would not request such information from customers via email. To find out more about phisher scams and access more examples, click the link below.


Phisher Scams


Example of scam email:

Dear PayPal client,

While performing it's regular scheduled monthly billing address check our system found incompatible information which seams to be no longer the same with your current credit card information that we have on file. If you changed your billing information or if you moved from you previous address please follow up the link bellow and update your billing information: If you didn't change any of this information you still need to follow up the previous link and update your existing billing information because it means that our database regular scheduled update wasn't made correctly. Choosing to ignore this message will result in to a temporary suspension of your account within 24 hours, until you will choose to solve this unpleasant situation.
We apologies for any inconvinience this may caused you and we strongly advise you to update your information you have on file with us. Clicking [BOGUS LINK REMOVED] you will avoid any possible futuring billing problems with your account.

Best regards,
- PayPal Team.

Scam email in original HTML format:

PayPal Scam Email


Bogus Form:
Fake PayPal Form


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Eddie Gibson is Missing - Email Forward

The information in the email included below is true. According to the British Embassy Phnom Penh website, Edward James Gibson has been missing since late 2004 and was last known to be in Cambodia. Eddie has also gone by the name of Mickey Dellar while travelling in Asia. Eddie's family has not heard from him since the 24th October 2004.

It is not known if Eddie has met with foul play, or simply decided to disappear for a while. For more in-depth information about this mystery, access Missing Brit mystery in Cambodia, a BBC article from April 2005.

If you have any information about the whereabouts of Eddie Gibson, please use the contact details available on the Eddie Gibson website, or on the British Embassy Phnom Penh web page. Email is a quite powerful means of spreading information, and it is possible that this email forward might ultimately be of some help in solving this mystery.

Let us hope that this case has a positive outcome and that young Eddie is located safe and well.

However, before forwarding an email such as this one, it is worthwhile to check the status of the case. Some, such as the Penny Brown email are hoaxes. In other instances, such as the case of tsunami victim Sophia Michl, the email continues to circulate pointlessly long after the case has been resolved. A small amount of time spent searching the Internet is often all that is required to check the veracity of an email message such as this one. Searching an online news source such as Google News will often provide information about the current status of a missing person.

Subject : Missing gap year student

Please help.

Eddie Gibson is 20 years old. He travelled to Vietnam during his "gap year". He has subsequently gone missing.

see www.eddiegibson.net

He was last heard of in November 2004. The British Embassy in Phnom Penn have all but given up hope of his safe return. However his Mother has, quite rightly, not given up. She lives in the hope that some positive information as to Eddie's whereabouts will appear. You may not know people in the Far East, or even your contacts, or even their contacts but as the chain develops it WILL find its way to the Far East and then we may start to see results.

Please help Eddie's mother, Jo Clarke, by sending this on, NOW, to as many people as possible. Dont be judgmental and assume this won't work...do it , you have nothing to lose but Jo Clarke does, her much loved 20 year old son. Lets help find him

Eddie Gibson

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Fake News Story: Cambodian Midgets Fight Lion

A "news" story, supposedly released by the BBC, has been spreading rapidly around the Internet via blogs, forums and email. The story claims that 42 members of the Cambodian Midget Fighting League were killed or injured in a bloody battle with an African lion.

The story was originally posted on a web page that was constructed to resemble a genuine BBC News article. However, the story is a fake and the web page that it is displayed on has no association with the BBC. Apparently, the fake article was originally intended as a joke to be shared among a limited number of friends. However, links to the article "escaped" into cyberspace and spread rapidly as such stories often do. The perpetrator has now placed a disclaimer online to explain the details of the hoax. The disclaimer outlines the reason the fake article was created as follows:

It was created to 'settle' a dispute between a friend of mine in which he claimed that 40 weaponless midgets could defeat 1 lion in a hypothetical fight. Many of my other friends and I tried to convince him that the lion would definitely win, but he would not back down from his argument. After seeing another fake article posing as BBC about 'zombism' in Cambodia, I got the idea to make this fake news article to try and convince him for the final time.
It is not uncommon for fake news stories to circulate rapidly around the Internet. In this case, the spread of the story appears to be unintentional. More commonly, the fake stories originate from satirical websites such as The Onion. Fake news articles about the deaths of William Hung, Michael Jackson, Magic Johnson and others continue to circulate long after the stories were first released.



Examples:
[Excerpt 1]

Headline:
Lion Mutilates 42 Midgets in Cambodian Ring-Fight

An African Lion much like this is responsible for the death of 28 Cambodian Midgets. Spectators cheered as entire Cambodian Midget Fighting League squared off against African Lion

[Excerpt 2]

The fight was called in only 12 minutes, after which 28 fighters were declared dead, while the other 14 suffered severe injuries including broken bones and lost limbs, rendering them unable to fight back.

Read the entire story


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Nigerian Wolves In Sheep's Clothing

Lately I have been receiving an unprecedented amount of Nigerian scam email that claim the sender has a strong Christian conviction and needs help to distribute funds to charities. The messages often include Biblical references and begin with passages like the one quoted below:

My Dearly Beloved,

It is by the grace of God that I received Christ, having known the truth, I had no choice than to do what is lawful and right in the sight of God for eternal life and in the sight of man for witness of God's mercy and glory upon my life

The emails go on to explain that the sender is severely incapacitated due to a terminal illness. Supposedly, the sender requires help to access funds in a bank account and then distribute them to charity.

Presently, I'm in a hospital in Kenya where I have been undergoing treatment for esophageal cancer.I have since lost my ability to talk and my doctors have told me that I have only a few weeks to live.It is my last wish to see this money distributed to charity organizations any where in the World. ..... Please, I beg you in the name of God to help me Stand and collect the Funds from the Bank. I want a person that is God fearing that will use this money to fund churches, orphanages and widows propagating the word of God and to ensure that the house of God is maintained.

Of course, underneath the Christian rhetoric these messages are just typical Nigerian scam emails. The "funds" do not exist nor do the swine perpetrating the scams have any intention of donating money to charity. As usual, the purpose of these emails is simply to initiate a dialogue with potential victims. If recipients reply to the emails, the criminals running these scams will subsequently attempt to draw them deeper into the fraudulent scheme via further emails, letters, faxes or phone calls. Victims will eventually be asked to part with their own money, supposedly to allow the "deal" to proceed. This money will not be used for its intended purpose. Instead, money sent by victims will line the greedy pockets of the scammers. Fraudulent requests for fees will usually continue until the victim realizes he or she is being conned and stops sending money. The scammers may also manage to collect enough personal information about the victim to steal his or her identity.

More information about Nigerian Scams

Read the full version of the scam message quoted in this article


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Monkeyman935 Warning Hoax

The information in this email "warning" is untrue and it should not be forwarded. "Monkeyman935" is not murdering women he has met via the Internet and this dire warning can be safely disregarded.

Although false, this "warning" actually has its origins in events surrounding the real case of brutal serial killer John E. Robinson. After a lengthy history of violence and murder, Robinson was finally arrested in 2000. He was charged in relation to the murders of several women, some of whom he met via Internet chat rooms. Robinson, going by the nickname "Slavemaster", used the Internet to entice women into participating in sadomasochistic relationships, several of which ended in homicide. You can read the full horrific story of the Robinson case in a series of articles on the Crime Library website.

The original version of the email (see below) apparently began circulation as a result of Robinson's crimes. The first version featured the screen name "Slavemaster" rather than "Monkeyman935". Although Robinson did really use the name "Slavemaster", he has been securely incarcerated for most or all of the time that the message has been circulating. Authorities suspect that he was involved in the deaths of a number of women, but the total is almost certainly a lot less than 56 as is claimed in the email.

Since the original "Slavemaster" message, there have been several other very similar versions in which alternative screen names have been inserted. As well as "Monkeyman935", mutated versions have featured the screen names "SweetCaliGuy4evr", "Free_mumia911" and others.

This hoax email will most likely continue to circulate for a long time to come. From time to time, someone will substitute a new "screen name" and the amended version will be repeatedly forwarded. This name substitution tactic is reminiscent of the MSN Contact List Virus Hoax, in which new email addresses replace previous ones quite regularly.

Certainly, Internet users should take measures to protect their privacy while online. Caution and commonsense should be used, especially if we decide to physically meet with people we have "met" on the Internet. However, forwarding this sort of hysterical nonsense is not likely to foster a sensible awareness of online personal safety issues. Instead, it just spreads unnecessary fear and alarm.

Other References:
Symantec Write-Up: Slavemaster
SLAVEMASTER JOHN EDWARD ROBINSON

Subject: FROM THE STATE POLICE: NOT A JOKE

PLEASE READ THIS: State Police Warning for Online

WARNING FROM THE STATE POLICE . . USA (Not a joke.)

State police warning for online: Please read this "very carefully"..then send it out to all the people online that you know.

Something like this is nothing to be taken casually; this is something you DO want to pay attention to. Think of it as a bit of advice too.

If a person with the screen-name of Monkeyman935 contacts you, do not reply.

DO not talk to this person; do not answer any of his/her instant Messages or e-mail. Whoever this person may be, he/she is a suspect for murder in the death of 56 women (so far) contacted through the Internet.

Please send this to all the women on your buddy list and ask them to pass this on, as well. This screen-name was seen on Yahoo, AOL, AIM, and Excite so far.

This is not a joke! Please send this to men too...just in case! Send to everyone you know! Ladies, this is serious.


Two Original Versions:

Please read this and pass it on. VERY SERIOUS!

Our homeoffice has informed us that they received this bit of information. Read this very carefully....then send it to all the people online that you know. You DO want to pay attention to this.

If a person with the screen-name of Slavemaster contacts you, do not reply, do not talk to this person; do not answer any of his/her instant messages or e-mail. Whoever this person may be, he/she is a suspect for murder in the death of 56 women (so far) contacted through the Internet.

Please send this to all the women on your buddy list and ask them to pass it on. This screen name was seen on Yahoo, AOL, and Excite. Send to everyone.

Ladies this is very serious.


If a guy by the name of ----- _SlaveMaster ----- contacts you do not answer. He has killed 56 women that he has talked to on the Internet. PLZ SEND OUT TO ALL THE WOMEN ON YOUR BUDDY LIST . ALSO ASK THEM TO PASS THIS ON.

He has been on {{Yahoo- Aol-- Excite}} so far. This is no JOKE.!!!!!!



[TOP]

Rogue Anti-Spyware Applications

Spyware and other malware is a steadily increasing problem for Internet users. However, software developers have responded to this problem and there are now a great number of anti-spyware applications available.

Unfortunately, some unscrupulous vendors use very dubious tactics to gain a competitive edge for their anti-spyware products. These tactics include:

There are a plethora of anti-spyware products currently available. In fact, there are so many anti-spyware products on the market that making a wise and informed choice can be somewhat difficult. Luckily, the Spyware Warrior website features an excellent online resource that provides a comprehensive list of rogue anti-spyware products as well as a wealth of other spyware related information.

If you are in the market for an anti-spyware product, I recommend that you take a few moments to check The Spyware Warrior List of Rogue/Suspect Anti-Spyware Products & Web Sites before making a purchase.

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Hidden Text in Spam Emails

I often receive emails from readers that ask why random text is sometimes hidden within HTML spam messages. You may not even see these hidden messages unless you view the source code of the email. Depending on the configuration of your email client, the hidden text may be rendered visible when you reply or forward the message. Sometimes, highlighting empty space in the spam message will reveal the hidden text.

This hidden text is a common component of spam messages. Spammers include hidden text in their HTML emails in order to try to trick spam filters. A lot of spam filters are configured to detect messages that contain certain words, phrases or ways of structuring sentences that are commonly indicative of spam. If these indicators add up to a significant percentage of the message, the filter will block the message as spam.

The hidden text can effectively dilute the overall "count" of these spam indicators, so that the message can sneak through the filter. Many recipients would not see the hidden text, or even know it existed, but it is easily "seen" by the spam filtering software.

The buried messages usually consist of random words or phrases that have nothing to do with the visible content of the email. Sometimes, it is tempting to attach some intrinsic significance to the hidden messages. However, I believe that they are just unconnected words, letters and numbers tacked together by the spammer. The messages have no meaning of their own and are added only to fool spam filters.

I have included some examples lifted from various spam emails below:

ghastly climatology astigmatism
Go Web in 1898 stars battle
driving at? Forget it!
Everything to our topic Health world OFFBEAT
whats going on engine
Family Hold on in 1951 The thing is
Snowboarding Miss World
in 1814 in 1871 I am on a Spice Girls
don't feel well in 1979
Absent Without Leave Red Herring




[TOP]

Good Luck Chain Letter - The Phone Will Ring

There are many different versions of these silly "good luck" emails circulating around the Internet and consuming bandwidth for no good reason. If one of them arrives in my email inbox I simply delete it in short order. I never send it onwards, as I think they just make the sender look foolish.

So, has my callous chain-breaking ways caused me any dreadful downturns in luck? Well, not that I can tell. My luck doesn't seem to be any worse than the next person's. What's more, none of the people who have sent me these stupid messages over the years have ever reported a sudden run of good luck.

As far as I'm concerned, there is already enough pointless junk bombarding the world's inboxes. Continuing one of these dumb chain emails will do nothing more than add to it.

Check it out! It is pretty cool!

Trying this just for grins....

This is spooky
OK guys, this truly is freaky, the phone literally rang as soon as I read the last word of this email!!!!!
I am taking the bait - what do I have to lose right? Hope it works! Supposedly The Phone Will Ring Right After You Do This. Just read the little stories and think of a wish as you scroll all the way to the bottom. There is a message there - then make your wish. No attachment on this one.

Stories :
I'm 13 years old, and I wished that my dad would come home from the army, because he'd been having problems with his heart and right leg. It was 2:53 p.m. When I made my wish. At 3:07 p.m.(14 minutes later), the doorbell rang, and there my Dad was, luggage and all!!

I'm Katie and I'm 20 and I've been having trouble in my job and on the verge of quitting. I made a simple wish that my boss would get a new job. That was at 1:35and at 2:55 there was an announcement that he was promoted and was leaving for another city. Believe me...this really works!!!

My name is Ann and I am 45 years of age. I had always been single and had been hoping to get into a nice, loving relationship for many years. While kind of daydreaming (and right after receiving this email) I wished that a quality person would finally come into my life. That was at 9:10 AM on a Tuesday. At 9:55 AM a FedEx delivery man came into my office. He was cute, polite and could not stop smiling at me. He started coming back almost everyday (even without packages) and asked me out a week later. We married 6 months later and now have been happily married for 2 years. What a great email it was!!

Just scroll down to the end, but while you do, think of a wish. Make your wish when you have completed scrolling. Whatever age you are, is the number of minutes it will take for your wish to come true. ex. you are 25 years old, it will take 25 minutes for your wish to come true). However, if you don't send this to people in 5 minutes, you will have bad luck for years!!

Go for it!!!

SCROLL DOWN!

****************************
*****************************
****************************
********************************
*********************************
**********************************
*********************************

STOP!!!

Congratulations!!! Your wish will now come true in your age minutes.
Now follow this carefully....it can be very rewarding!!!!
If you send this to 10 more people, other than the 5 that you already have to send to, something major that you've been wanting will happen.

Message: This is scary! The phone will ring right after you do this!



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Nibbles and Bytes Webzine

Nibbles and Bytes is a fortnighly webzine that features material on a large variety of subjects. Nibbles and Bytes is simply an expression of my desire to share some of the interesting and unusual things I come across online.

Issues features such items as:
Inclusions are generally quite brief and simply point to more information where appropriate.
Each week, I'll start a new edition with one or two inclusions. I'll add inclusions, or modify existing inclusions over the course of the week, so that each issue will gradually evolve into the final "finished" version. Thus, the first entry on a particular subject might consist of just a line and a link, and I'll plug in more information to the entry as time permits.

Just for the record…a byte is the common IT term for 8 bits. A nibble is half a byte.

Check out the first editions of Nibbles and Bytes

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The Hoax_Slayer Newsletter is published by:
Brett M.Christensen
Queensland, Australia
All Rights Reserved
©Brett M. Christensen, 2008
Questions or Comments