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Issue 53 - Hoax-Slayer Newsletter

Issue 53: July, 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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In Case of Emergency (ICE) Campaign Email

Summary:
Email forward advises you to store the word "I C E" in your mobile phone book along with the number of the person you wish to be contacted in case of emergency.

Status:
True

Example:(Submitted, July 2005)
East Anglian Ambulance Service have launched a national "In case of Emergency (ICE)" campaign with the support of Falklands war hero Simon Weston and in association with Vodafone's annual life savers award.

The idea is that you store the word "I C E" in your mobile phone address book, and against it enter the number of the person you would want to be contacted "In Case of Emergency". In an emergency situation ambulance and hospital staff will then be able to quickly find out who your next of kin are and be able to contact them. It's so simple that everyone can do it.

Please will you also email this to everybody in your address book, it won't take too many 'forwards' before everybody will know about this. It really could help the emergency services in doing their job. For more than one contact name ICE1, ICE2, ICE3 etc.


Commentary:
This message circulates via email as well as online forums and blogs. The message rapidly gained momentum in the wake of the London terrorist bombings of July 2005.

Information in the message is valid and, in fact, the advice it contains is well worth heeding. An article on the East Anglian Ambulance Service website offers more information about the ICE campaign. In April 2005, clinical team leader Bob Brotchie, launched the UK based ICE campaign with support from Vodafone.

The East Anglian Ambulance Service article states that:
By entering the acronym ICE - for In Case of Emergency - into the mobile's phone book, users can log the name and number of someone who should be contacted in an emergency.

The idea follows research carried out by Vodafone that shows more than 75 per cent of people carry no details of who they would like telephoned following a serious accident.
Detailed information about the campaign is available on the ICE website. Many other regions around the world have now embraced the idea, including the United States and Australia.

In a strange twist, malicious pranksters have apparently attempted to sabotage the ICE campaign by circulating nonsensical email rumours that ICE is actually a type of mobile phone virus. These rumours are completely false and should be ignored. An example of one of these hoax emails is included below:

Latest Mobile Phone Scam

I have just received information from [Name of company removed] that there is a new mobile phone scam concerning Pay as You Go (PAYG) Mobiles.

The scam is that you are asked to set up an "In Case of Emergency (ICE) Account" on your PAYG mobile.

Apparently this is a modular system that searches for the word ICE text and then changes your phones setting and takes any PAYG credit left on your phone.

Please ensure that this information is circulated to all staff and please pass on to family and friends


References:
ICE - we call, when you can't
Help out in a crisis - with ICE

[TOP]



112 No Signal Mobile Phone Call Diverts to Satellite Hoax

The widely circulating email shown below contains misinformation and should not be taken seriously. The message claims that dialling the emergency number 112 on a mobile phone will get through to emergency services even if there is no signal available. According to the email, a call to 112 "will be diverted to a satellite signal" in areas where there is no signal such as the London Underground train system. However, these claims are completely unfounded. A press release on the Transport for London website dismisses the message as a "misleading spam e-mail".

The press release quotes a London Underground spokesperson as follows:
This e-mail is incorrect. The 112 number does link people through to 999, but it only works if you have a signal on your mobile phone. If you have no signal bars on your phone, it will not work.

It will not divert to a satellite signal.
Even if a traveller did have a real satellite phone, it would be extremely unlikely to work in an underground train system because such phones need a clear line of site to the satellite. The ROCOM website notes that
All satellite telephones require line of sight. This means that the antenna of the satellite phone must be placed outside with a clear view to the satellite.
112 is a real emergency number and will link GSM mobile phone network users to emergency services in many parts of the world. In the European Union, 112 is the standard emergency telephone number. In other parts of the world, dialling 112 will automatically divert the call to a local emergency number. However, as with any other mobile phone call, a signal must be available before the call can succeed.

If you receive this email, please do not forward it to others. Perpetrating the false information the message contains could ultimately lead to confusion and dangerous diversion during a real emergency situation. The message should be deleted.

References:
Transport for London - Misleading e-mail
How satellite phones work
Mobile Phone Guide
1-1-2 Wikipedia
SOS 112 Europe


Subject: Information regarding the Underground

Dear All

FYI

If you travel to work on the tube please note the following information:

If your mobile phone has no signal (if you are in a tunnel) you can dial 112 and it will divert to a satellite signal and this puts you through to the 999 Call Centre.

All phone companies have signed up and as it is a satellite service It also gives them a trace to you if you do not know where you are.

Please forward to people you know.


[TOP]



RCMP Warning Hoax - No Headlights Gang Initiation Myth

The hoax message included below is just the latest in a long line of similar "warnings". Like earlier versions, the information in the email is untrue. A disclaimer on the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) debunks the story as a hoax.

The following e-mail hoax has been circulating in Canada with an RCMP signature. One of our Saskatchewan employees sent this e-mail on to others in good faith without realizing it was untrue. The information contained in the e-mail is FALSE and the RCMP regrets any unnecessary alarm this may have caused the public.

This story began circulating via email and fax back in 1993 and may have originated from even earlier stories involving motorcycle gangs. It was also given new life by the 1998 film "Urban Legend" which featured the initiation ritual described. In 2004, another version of the hoax targeted Londoners. Urban legend site, Snopes.com provides a detailed history of this myth.

Unfortunately, this latest version has gained a degree of underserved credibility because of the seemingly official RCMP signature that closes the message. As explained above, the signature is a result of a mistake by an RCMP employee and should not be seen as an official RCMP endorsement.

False warnings such as this one can waste the valuable time of law enforcement personnel who are obligated to answer questions about the messages from concerned members of the public. They can spread unnecessary fear and alarm and they may even encourage copycat criminals to try such stunts in real life.

These emails should be deleted rather than forwarded.



An example of the hoax email:
Subject: RCMP Warning

Please pass this on! Important police warning. Very scary. Started in Manitoba... now in Saskatchewan... now moving west. Police Warning - For Your Information: This is an extremely serious matter. If you are driving after dark and you see a car without its head-lights on, DO NOT flash your lights, DO NOT blow your horn or make ANY signals to the driver of the other car. There is a new common gang initiation 'game' going on the streets. The new member being initiated drives along without his headlights on until someone notices and flashes their headlights or makes some sort of other action to signal him. The gang member is now required to chase the car and shoot at or into the car in order to complete his initiation requirements.

This is a DEADLY game with us innocent the one to pay the price.

Make sure you share this information with your family, friends, and anyone else you can reach. If you have any questions or information,please call your local police department. Please take this seriously. This is not a joke.

Please pass this on to everyone you know on e-mail and in person.

It could save someone's life, if not your own.

[Removed] Compensation Advisor RCMP,
Compensation Services, NWRSask.
Regina, Saskatchewan
S4P 3K7
Phone: [Removed]
Fax: [Removed]
E-Mail Internet: [Removed]


[TOP]



London Bombing Donations Scam Emails

News reports indicate that scam emails related to the London terrorist bombings began to circulate soon after the attacks. The emails include logos and images stolen from the British Red Cross website and ask for donations to help bombing victims.

The British Red Cross has not sent any emails asking for donations and is very unlikely to do so. The Australian Red Cross has the following warning on its website:
If you have received an email asking you to donate to the London Bombings Relief Charitable Fund, please be aware that this is not an official communication from the British Red Cross.
Those who receive these scam emails are advised to delete them as soon as possible. DO NOT respond to the messages.

Be wary of any email that purports to be from a charitable organization and asks for donations. Scammers commonly use terrorist attacks or natural disasters as cover stories for their criminal activities. Earlier in 2005, heartless scammers used the Asian tsunami as a ruse to extort money from email recipients.

As well, a trojan that arrives with an email disguised as a CNN story about the London bombings started to be distributed very soon after the attack. Once installed, the trojan can allow spammers to send junk email from the infected computer. For more information about the trojan email, see:

Terror Hits London Trojan

References:
Australian Red Cross
Red Cross warns of hoax UK bomb donation email

[TOP]



ATM Skimming Fraud Warning

The warning email shown below is legitimate and was published on the University of Texas website and other online locations including the Dedhams Savings Bank website.

High tech fraud involving Automatic Teller Machines (ATM's) is on the rise. ATM fraud of this nature is known as "skimming". Typically, criminals use a hidden card reading device and a camera to steal customer's card information and pin number. They then have enough data to create counterfeit ATM cards.

An article on the Security Magazine website explains that:

In this ingenious rip-off, lawbreakers take advantage of technology to make counterfeit ATM cards by using a skimmer. It's a card-swipe device that reads the information on a consumer's ATM card. The thief also captures the customer's PIN number with a small camera mounted in the skimmer itself or at another location near the ATM.
To many of us, using an ATM machine has become a commonplace activity. In fact, we may not be especially vigilant while using an ATM, and criminals can use this complacency to successfully engage in ATM skimming. Probably the best way to avoid becoming a victim of ATM skimming is to foster the habit of closely examining the device and its surroundings before inserting or swiping our ATM cards. Dedhams Savings Bank has the following advice on its security tips page:
When using any ATM, be aware of anything that may look unusual about the card slot area of the ATM. If you suspect that it has been tampered with, report it to the bank or local police immediately.
The page also has other ATM safety tips that are well worth heeding.

The information in this email forward should be taken seriously and it is indeed "important to look out for" skimming devices on ATM's.

Subject: Bank ATM's Converted to Steal IDs of Bank Customers

This is IMPORTANT to look out for!


Bank ATM's Converted to Steal IDs of Bank Customers

A team of organized criminals are installing equipment on legitimate bank ATM's in at least 2 regions to steal both the ATM card number and the PIN. The team sits nearby in a car receiving the information transmitted wirelessly over weekends and evenings from equipment they install on the front of the ATM (see photos). If you see an attachment like this, do not use the ATM and report it immediately to the bank using the 800 number or phone on the front of the ATM.

The equipment used to capture your ATM card number and PIN are cleverly disguised to look like normal ATM equipment. A "skimmer" is mounted to the front of the normal ATM card slot that reads the ATM card number and transmits it to the criminals sitting in a nearby car.

At the same time, a wireless camera is disguised to look like a leaflet holder and is mounted in a position to view ATM PIN entries.

The thieves copy the cards and use the PIN numbers to withdraw thousands from many accounts in a very short time directly from the bank ATM.

Equipment being installed on front of existing bank card slot.d
Equipment being installed on front of existing bank card slot.

The equipment as it appears installed over the normal ATM bank slot.
The equipment as it appears installed over the normal ATM bank slot.

The PIN reading camera being installed on the ATM is housed in an innocent looking leaflet enclosure.
The PIN reading camera being installed on the ATM is housed in an innocent looking leaflet enclosure.

The camera shown installed and ready to capture PIN's by looking down on the keypad as you enter your PIN
The camera shown installed and ready to capture PIN's by looking down on the keypad as you enter your PIN

Tell more people>>>>>>




[TOP]



Rat Urine on Soda Can Top Hoax

The Leptospirosis Information Center dismisses the emailed warning shown below as fake.

Exposure to urine from infected rats and other animals can indeed cause humans to contract leptospirosis. However, the chances of someone becoming infected in the manner described in this email are extremely slim. According to the LIC, "You are more at risk of being hit by lightning while riding a camel than contracting leptospirosis from a drinks container."

The LIC article also states that:
Leptospira require constant immersion in water to survive, and so drying of the surface for any length of time would permanently kill the bacteria. Given that drinking containers are non-porous, surface moisture dries very quickly and cannot possibly contaminate the contents.
The organisms that cause Leptospirosis can survive outside the body of the original host, but only if favourable environmental condition are present. An article on the Michigan Department of Natural Resources website notes that:
The bacteria prefer moist, slightly alkaline soil, stagnant ponds, and low-flow, slow-moving, slightly alkaline streams. In these conditions the organism can survive for several weeks.
Given these facts, it is highly improbable that Leptospirosis bacteria could have survived on the surface of the can lids long enough to infect the alleged victim.

Furthermore, the email implies that rat urine is always toxic. According to the message, "rat urine contains toxic and deathly substances". This implication is misleading and inaccurate. Contact with urine from diseased rats can certainly lead to illness in humans. However, this is because the urine carries bacteria associated with a particular illness, not because the urine itself is in some way inherently toxic.

The message also falsely claims that the information is backed up by a "study at NYCU". Apparently, "NYCU" is intended to be an acronym for New York University. However New York University uses the acronym "NYU" rather than "NYCU". In any case, I cannot locate any record of such a study being conducted by NYU. Another, almost identical version of the message (see below) claims that the "study" was conducted in Spain, rather than by the "NYCU".

As is often the case with such emails, the details supplied are extremely vague. The "victim" is not named nor is there any background information such as the name of the treating hospital or even the name of the town or city where the alleged fatality occurred. The message does specify "North Texas" as the region in which the "incident" occurred. However, a European orientated version of the message (see below) claims the incident took place in Belgium. Extensive research reveals no credible information about a death like the one described in the email. If such a death had occurred in the manner outlined, it would have undoubtedly received wide-reaching publicity from the mainstream media.

Given that soda cans may have been stored or handled in an unsanitary manner before they reach consumers, the message's recommendation to wash the top of cans is probably worth heeding. However the spurious and misleading claims in the email should not be taken seriously and the message should not be forwarded.

Subject: FW: Toxic cans!!!! Please Read!!!

VERY IMPORTANT PLEASE READ

This incident happened recently in North Texas. We need to be even more careful everywhere. A woman went boating one Sunday, taking with her some cans of coke which she put in the refrigerator of the boat. On Monday she was taken into Intensive Care Unit and on Wednesday she died. The autopsy revealed a certain Leptospirose caused by the can of coke from which she had drunk, not using a glass. A test showed that the can was infected by dried rat urine and hence the disease Leptospirosis. Rat urine contains toxic and deathly substances. It is highly recommended to wash thoroughly the upper part of soda cans before drinking out of them as they have been stocked in warehouse and transported straight to The shops without being cleaned. A study at NYCU showed that the tops of soda cans are more contaminated than public toilets i.e. full of germs and bacteria. So wash them with water before putting them to the mouth to avoid any kind of fatal accident.

Please forward this message to all the people you care about.


European version:
Subject: FW: Coke anyone?

Charming........

This incident happened recently in Belgium.

A woman went boating one Sunday, taking with her some cans of coke which she put in the refrigerator of the boat. On Monday she was taken into ICU and on Wednesday she died.

The autopsy revealed a certain Leptospirosis caused by the can of coke from which she had drunk straight out of,not using a glass. A test showed that the can was infected by dried rat urine and hence the disease Leptospirosis.

Rat urine contains toxic and deathly substances. It is highly recommended to wash thoroughly the upper part of soda cans before drinking out of them as they have been stocked in warehouses and transported straight to the shops without with being cleaned.

A study in Spain showed that the tops of soda cans are more contaminated then public toilets i.e full of germs and bacteria. So to wash them with water is advised before putting it to the mouth to avoid any kind of fatal accident.


More information:
The Leptospirosis Information Center
CDC Article: Leptospirosis
RAT RELATED HEALTH HAZARDS & DISEASES

[TOP]

Hoax-Slayer Forums are Back!

I have finally resurrected the Hoax-Slayer Forums!

The forums provide a place for Hoax-Slayer subscribers and visitors to discuss scams, hoaxes and other subjects. I hope that the forums will grow into an active community and represent a worthwhile addition to the Hoax-Slayer website.

I did have forums up and running back in 2004. However, due to a chronic scarcity of spare time afflicting yours truly, some irritating spam issues, and a malicious redirection attack, I decided to temporarily close down the forums. This time, I've opted for a remotely hosted forum solution that has some extra security and configuration options that should make forum maintenance less time-consuming.

I hope you decide to visit the forums. All visitors can view the forums, but registration is required before you can post messages. Registration is very simple and completely free. Unfortunately, spammers tend to inundate open forums with their vile trash, so registration is a necessary anti-spam procedure.

Please click the link below to access the forums:

Hoax-Slayer Forums

[TOP]

Keeping Track of Newsletter Subscriptions

If you subscribe to a lot of email newsletters, keeping track of subscriptions can become a little difficult. At some point, you may want to quickly access information such as the address of the newsletter's website, when you subscribed, how to unsubscribe or how to contact the publisher.

Therefore, it is a good idea to save the "Welcome" email that you generally receive when you subscribe to a newsletter. Most email newsletters will provide some sort of introductory message that contains relevant information that may come in handy at a later date. A good way to store these "Welcome" messages is to create an email folder specifically for the purpose. Then whenever you subscribe to a newsletter, you can simply drag the "Welcome" email into this folder for future reference.

Because I subscribe to quite a large number of newsletters, I have extended this concept a little further. I have an email address just for newsletters. Having a separate email address makes it quite easy to filter all newsletters into a specific email folder. Once they arrive in my "Newsletters" folder, I can then drag and drop the messages into the most appropriate subfolder. As well as a subfolder for "Welcome" messages, I also have subfolders for each of my favourite newsletters. These subfolders then act as handy searchable archives for my newsletters.

[TOP]

XALAN Mobile Phone Virus Hoax

A newer version of an older mobile phone virus hoax is currently circulating rapidly. The messages are virtually identical to the older version except that "XALAN" has replaced the original "ACE". A copy of the newer version is included below.

The claims in the email are untrue and should be disregarded. Real mobile phone viruses are possible and do exist. However, this hoax email is a work of fiction and there is no real mobile phone virus that resembles the one described. More information about this hoax is available via the original Hoax-Slayer article

All mobile users pay attention!!!!!!!!!

If you receive a phone call and your mobile phone displays(XALAN)on the screen don't answer the call, END THE CALL IMMEDIATELY,if you answer the call,your phone will be infected by a virus. This virus WILL ERASE all IMEI and IMSI information from both your phone and your SIM card, which will make your phone unable to connect with the telephone network. You will have to buy a new phone. This information has been confirmed by both Motorola and Nokia. There are over 3 Million mobile phones being infected by this virus in all around the world now. You can also check this news in the CNN web site.

PLEASE FORWARD THIS PIECE OF INFORMATION TO ALL YOUR FRIENDS HAVING A MOBILE PHONE.


[TOP]

Little Sophia is Safe

Soon after the devastating Asian tsunami at the end of 2004, an email began circulating that requested help to identify a young girl who was being cared for in the Phuket hospital at the time. The email included a heart-wrenching photograph of the child.

The little girl's battered face and dazed appearance is enough to get even the most spam weary email recipient mousing rapidly towards the "Forward" button. However, if you receive this email, resist the temptation to send it onward. Thankfully, the child was identified months ago and is now back in Germany. Her name is Sophia Michl and she was ten years old at the time the photograph was taken. It is now pointless and counterproductive to continue forwarding this email. As far as I know, Sophia's parents, Mr. Norbert and Mrs. Edeltraud Michl, have never been found and were most likely lost to the tsunami.

Lost Tsunami Girl


[TOP]

Hoax-Slayer Happenings

I've decided to take the next semester off from my University study so I can devote more time to Hoax-Slayer. I'm hoping to add a lot more articles to the site over the next few months and I have a few other Hoax-Slayer related projects in the wind. I'm considering some alternative formats for the newsletter and possibly an RSS feed.

I recently added a new Computer Tips section to the site. The page features computer tips that I have previously included in the newsletter as well as others that I have found particularly useful.

I've also added an Email Security page that hosts a collection of articles, reviews, tutorials and tips that can help you use email more securely and more efficiently.

Don't forget that you can keep on eye an what happening on Hoax-Slayer between issues by visiting the Hoax-Slayer News and Service blog.

Thanks for reading!

Best wishes,
Brett

[TOP]

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