Issue 55 - Hoax-Slayer Newsletter
Issue 55: October, 2005
This month in Hoax-Slayer:
Help Burned Baby Alexandra Email
The core information in the email forward shown below is true. According to information from a Polish news source
, in June 2005 14-month-old Ola Kuczma of Poland was seriously injured in a fire in her parent's wooden house. The baby's bed was engulfed in flames and her hair began to burn. Thankfully, her parents were able to rescue the child at the last minute and doctors in Cracow managed to save her life. At the time of writing (October 2005) Ola is apparently making progress
, but will need further medical treatment. Full recovery and rehabilitation is likely to be a long process.
The email identifies the child as "Alexandra". "Ola" is simply a Polish diminutive form of the first name "Aleksandra".
While the case is real, the claim that "3 cents" will be donated each time the email is forwarded is pure nonsense. In other words, some heartless individual has turned a genuine tragedy into a pointless hoax email that will most probably continue to circulate for months or years to come. Forwarding the email will do nothing to help little Ola or her family.
According to Filip Gralinski of Galeria Listow-Lancuszkow
, the original version of the email was quite legitimate and included a bank account number that recipients could use in order to donate money to Ola's parents. He explains that in subsequent versions of the email, the legitimate bank account information was deleted and replaced with the absurd claim that Ola's parents will get 3 grosz (about 1 US cent) for each copy of the e-mail forwarded. Some versions of the message claim that scripts included in the email allow the donation system to work. This is completely untrue.
The legitimate bank account number was also given on Polish television and is still available on the TV station's website
. Those with a genuine interest in helping Ola's parents may still be able to offer assistance via the information on the television website
. However, forwarding the email in its current form will not help Ola's parents.
Most news references to Ola's situation are in Polish. However, Filip Gralinski has included some information about Ola in English
on his website. Filip Gralinski greatly assisted me during the research of this article by translating information about Ola into English so that I could understand it.
Chirurg uratowal Oli zycie
Olenka znów bedzie sliczna
Polish Television website
Galeria Listow-Lancuszkow (Chain-Letter Gallery)
Information about Ola in Polish
Information about Ola in English
An example of the email:
Alexandra came out of a rigging fire alive, but now has to fight for her life and a normal future.
She is 14 months old and she has burnt skin all over her body, damage facial bones (as a result of very high temperature). She does not have half of her face. She is in hospital in Cracow - Poland and one of the best specialist is looking after her. However she still has to go through many surgeries and then long rehab. Unfortunately her parents do not have any more money. Therefore we are asking for your help.
For each forwarded email her parents will get 3 cents. Please help them and forward that email to as many people as you can.
Giant New Orleans Crocodile Hoax Email
The photographs that arrive with email forward shown below supposedly depict a giant man-eating crocodile caught swimming the flooded streets of New Orleans in the wake of destruction caused by 2005's Hurricane Katrina. The photographs are real. However, they were not taken in New Orleans. The images were displayed on various websites such as markhope.com
and began circulating around the Internet via email and online forum posts
long before Hurricane Katrina struck.
Apparently, the photographs were actually taken in Pointe Noire, Republic of the Congo, during 2003. The original email message is very similar to the current version, except that the prankster has relocated the action to New Orleans rather than Africa. According to an article discussing the original message
on About.com, information about this giant crocodile was published on July 17, 2003 in La Semaine Africaine, a French language Congolese magazine.
Also, it appears that the length, weight and age of the reptile are exaggerated in both the original Pointe Noire version of the email and the 2005 New Orleans mutation.
The About.com article
notes that the magazine story records the crocodile as measuring 5 meters (around 16 feet) and weighing 850 kilos around (1,874 lbs). The animal's age is estimated to be around 50 years rather than 80 years as claimed in the messages.
The animal depicted is a Nile crocodile. Nile crocodiles are found across a large portion of Africa (but certainly not the New Orleans region) and do indeed grow to enormous sizes. According to an article on the Crocodilian Species
website, Crocodylus niloticus has an average adult length of around 5 meters (about 16 feet) and has been reported as reaching 6 meters (around 19 feet) in rare cases. The article notes:
There are dubious reports of 7 m animals having existed, but these are hard to verify.
A Wikipedia entry
about Nile crocodiles concurs:
Seven meter (23 ft) and larger specimens have been reported, but since gross overestimation of size is common these reports are suspect.
Thus, while the photographs depict a real animal, it is probably not as large as claimed in the email message and it was certainly not "found in New Orleans swimming down the street".
MarkHope.Com - Form Of Email - Need A Hand Bag?.....
Guess Who's Coming To Dinner.....I am Not A Geek Forums
The Monster Crocodile of Pointe-Noire
Crocodilian Species - Nile Crocodile (Crocodylus niloticus)
Wikipedia: Nile Crocodile
An example of the hoax email:
Subject: Wow, Now this is a big crocodile
Believe it or not!
Now this is a Crocodile!
This crocodile was found in New Orleans swimming down the street. 21 FT long, 4,500 lbs, around 80 years old minimum.
Specialists said that he was looking to eat humans because he was too old to catch animals. This crocodile was killed by the army last Sunday at 3:00 pm, currently he is in the freezer at the Azur hotel. The contents of its stomach will be analyzed this Friday at 2:30pm
HIV Infected Needles on UK Cinema Seats Hoax
The hoax message shown below is just one in a long line of similar hoaxes. From time to time, a new version emerges, often localized to suit a particular area of the world.
This version is set in the UK and tries to back up its spurious claims by stating that the message originated at the National Health Service (NHS) website. However, a search of the NHS website
reveals no such warning. The message also claims that the report has been confirmed by the "Centres for Disease Control", supposedly located in Birmingham. However, the UK based Centre for Infections
, which is part of the Health Protection Agency
, makes no mention of HIV infected needles being deliberately left on cinema seats.
The US based Centres for Disease Control (CDC) does
make mention of the claims in an article about HIV related rumours
. The CDC notes that:
CDC has received inquiries about a variety of reports or warnings about used needles left by HIV-infected injection drug users in coin return slots of pay phones, the underside of gas pump handles, and on movie theater seats. These reports and warnings have been circulated on the Internet and by e-mail and fax. Some reports have falsely indicated that CDC "confirmed" the presence of HIV in the needles. CDC has not tested such needles nor has CDC confirmed the presence or absence of HIV in any sample related to these rumors. The majority of these reports and warnings appear to have no foundation in fact.
According to the article, used needles are
sometimes discarded in areas where they could potentially cause harm to the public. It is certainly possible that some heinous individual might deliberately leave a syringe in a place where it could cause injury to an unsuspecting member of the public. However, there is no evidence that a deliberate campaign to infect cinemagoers with HIV is taking place in the UK or anywhere else in the world.
The hoax also mentions that the message "was sent from hanley police station". Hanley is a town in Staffordshire, England. However, the Staffordshire Police have denied the claims in an official website article
. The article states that they have received no reports about a visitor to a cinema being injured by a needle left on the seat. According to a Stoke-on-Trent Police spokesman quoted in the article:
We have received no such reports, and we believe that this e-mail has been written to cause fear and alarm to members of the public. I urge members of the public not to send this e-mail on to others and to simply delete it. We have made contact with the organisations mentioned in the e-mail and none are aware of any such incident.
of this hoax claim that HIV infected needles have been deliberately left on gas pump handles. There have been US, Canadian, Australian and French versions of the hoax as well as the UK based version discussed here.
These emails should be deleted rather than forwarded.
An example of the hoax email:
This message is serious and has been passed to us from Cheshire
Could you please cascade as quickly as possible as this came
through our NHSweb page.
For your information, a couple of weeks ago, in the odeon cinema, Festival
Park, a person sat on something sharp in one of the seats. When she
stood up to see what it was, a needle was found poking through the seat with
an attached note saying, "you have been infected with HIV".
The Centres for Disease Control in Birmingham, reports similar events have
taken place in several other cities recently.
ALL of the needles tested HAVE been found positive for HIV. The CDC
also reports that needles have been found in the coin return areas of
pay phones and coke machines. Everyone is asked to use extreme caution when
confronted with these types of situations. All public chairs should be
thoroughly but safely inspected prior to any use. A thorough visual inspection is
considered the bare minimum. Further more, they ask that everyone
notify their family members and friends of the potential dangers, as well.
The previous information was sent from hanley police station to all
of the local councils in the Staffs area and was interdepartmentally
We were all asked to pass this to as many people as possible.
Assistant Health & Safety Adviser
Health & Safety Unit
[Contact details removed]
MSN 18 Contacts Hoax
The hoax message included below is just one more in a long line of similar hoaxes that warn that MSN is about to start charging for its free services. From time to time, pranksters come up with an updated and equally untrue version of the message that includes a new deadline set a month or so in the future. Another version
was circulating in August and early September 2005. Earlier versions
have specifically targeted Hotmail users.
If MSN was considering implementing a charge for its standard MSN Messenger and email services, it would certainly not base its decision on how many times a silly message was sent to others. Such claims are simply ridiculous.
The "warning" advises recipients to "go to the site (www.msn.com ) and see for yourself". However, there is nothing on the MSN site that confirms the story in any way.
Like its many predecessors, the message is pure nonsense and should be deleted rather than forwarded
An example of the email:
Date: Tue, 27 Sep 2005 22:41:43 +0000
On the 1st of november , we will have to pay for the use of our MSN and email accounts unless we send this message to at least 18
contacts on your contact list. It's no joke if you don't believe me then go to the site ( www.msn.com ) and see for yourself.
Anyways once you've sent this message to at least 18 contacts , your msn dude will become blue. please copy and paste don't forward cos people won't take notice of it otherwise
plse do it
Gang Member Hidden in Back Seat Myth
The dubious "warning" included above is a rehashed variant of an old urban legend that has been passed around since at least the 1960's. The legend of the criminal hiding in the back seat of a motor vehicle ready to attack the helpless female driver predates the Internet by decades. In this instance, someone has created a version of the hoax specifically aimed at Australian recipients. It is very similar to other versions of the hoax that are set in the US, Ireland, Canada and various other locations around the world.
Searches of the Queensland Police Service website
reveal no reports of the incidents described in the warning email. I have found no credible news reports about such abduction attempts in Queensland or elsewhere in Australia. If the "gang initiation" method described in the message was really occurring and was a matter of police record, it would have almost certainly been given attention in the mainstream media. Also, if they were true, warnings about such gang activity would be released via official channels rather than distributed via the random forwarding of an email.
Because of this lack of confirmation from any reliable source, the email warning has very little credibility. Also, the fact that similar, and equally unsubstantiated, versions have circulated in different areas of the world for many years indicates that this Australianised variant is as much a work of fiction as its predecessors.
Almost all of these stories are inherently sexist in that they involve an apparently helpless and unobservant female that needs to be "saved" by a more attentive individual, depicted as male in most versions. At their core, these stories are just modern examples of the male-biased "Red-Riding Hood" like folk-tales
that have been told for centuries. Such tales pander to the traditional gender role models of the female victim, the male protector and the evil male predator and are underpinned by overt or covert sexual themes.
Some of the details included in the warning appear to be manufactured purely to support the narrative. The message claims that the would-be rapist volunteered
information to the police about his activities and his gang involvement when even the dumbest of criminals would be highly unlikely to do so. The potential gang member's "loose lips" would be sure to increase the attention payed to his gang by the police and would certainly not make him very popular with his fellow criminals. Although contrived and logically flawed, the gang member's admissions are crucial to the tale because they let the reader know his truly sinister intentions. Without his confession, the tale loses its impact. The reader could conclude that the perpetrator may have had a more mundane motive for hiding in the back seat such as robbery or perhaps even just a desire to hitch a free ride "up-town".
There are a number of urban legends that involve the supposed initiation rituals of gang members. Another "gang initiation" hoax involves gang members driving without headlights
and shooting at any driver who flashes his or her lights at them.
Of course, it is
possible that a criminal could hide in a back seat of a vehicle and attack the driver. In fact an article on Snopes.com
reveals that the legend may have been derived from a real incident. In 1964, an escaped criminal apparently hid in the back of a car and was subsequently shot by the car's owner, a police officer. However, unlike the subsequent stories, the criminal's motive was apparently just to escape the authorities and his plans were thwarted decisively by the male driver. In spite of this tenuous connection to a real event, there is absolutely no evidence that gang initiation rituals using the modus operandi described in the message are actually occurring.
Like many urban legends, there is some wisdom hidden among the nonsense. It is of course advisable for both male and female
drivers to remain vigilant and always lock their vehicles, even if they are only stepping away for a short time.
An example of the hoax email:
Subject: ***Brisbane Warning - Please read
Please circulate this following warning to everyone you know.
This actually happened a few weeks ago right here near Fairfield in Brisbane. It was early evening and a young lady stopped to get petrol at a Quix. She filled her tank and walked into the store to pay for her petrol. The cashier told her "Don't pay for your petrol yet.....walk around the store for a while and act as if you're picking up some other things to buy. A man just got into the back of your car. I've called the police and they're on their way".
When the police arrived, they found the man in the back seat of the girl's car and asked him what he was doing. He replied, he was joining a gang and the initiation to join is to kidnap a woman and bring her back to the gang to be raped by every member of the gang.
If the woman was still alive by the time they finish with her then
They let her go. According to the police that night, there is a new gang forming here originating from Wetherill Park. The scary part of this is because the guy didn't have a weapon on him the police could only charge him with trespassing.... He's back on the street and fee to try again.
Please be aware of what's going on around you and for your family and friends. LADIES you or one of your family and friends could be the next victim.
Please forward this on to everyone you know. Please do not discard this message it is very important that everyone knows what is happening.
A similar event took place on 7 March 2002 at a 7-Eleven servo in Wynnum. Please be careful when leaving your vehicle and make sure it is ALWAYS locked to prevent this from happening to you.
Free Sainsbury's Gift Voucher Hoax
Sainsbury's is not
giving away £60 gift vouchers to those who forward the above message to ten of their friends.
This silly email message is just one in a long line of hoaxes that claim free gifts, products or services can be redeemed simply by forwarding the message to a specified number of people.
This incarnation claims that Sainsbury's is giving away free £60 gift vouches to recipients who send the message to 10 friends. The claims in the message are untrue and Sainsbury's has denied that they are running any such promotion. Sainsbury's has the following information
on its website:
We have been made aware of an e-mail which looks like it originates from Sainsbury's offering customers £60 if they forward an e-mail to ten friends. This e-mail does not originate from Sainsbury's, and we are not running such a promotion. We are currently following this matter up with those responsible for the original e-mails.
It is highly unlikely that any legitimate company would base a promotional campaign on the haphazard forwarding of an email message. Many companies give away vouches or products from time to time as part of a marketing strategy. However, such giveaways are strictly controlled and are certainly not contingent upon how many copies of an email are sent. Any
email message that claims the recipient can get something free in exchange for forwarding the message is almost certainly a hoax.
If you receive this Sainsbury's voucher hoax, please do not forward it to others. Email hoaxes like this one do nothing more then waste bandwidth and clutter inboxes.
Sainsbury's FAQ Page: Spam /Junk Mail
Webuser Article: Free Sainsbury's vouchers email hoax
An example of the hoax email:
Dear Sainsbury's Shoppers! !
As part of our marketing exercise we will be giving away £60 gift vouchers.
Yes you read it right, Free gift vouchers, no catch.
All you have to do is forward this email on to 10 friends & a copy to
[Email Address Removed] simple as that. Once everyone in your
list has sent 10 emails you will be emailed your £60 voucher which you
can exchange in all Sainsbury's stores.
Thanks for taking part in our exciting new marketing method
[Contact Details Removed]
Take Care With Email Signatures
Configuring your email software to automatically add an email signature to outgoing messages can save time and help to promote your online "identity".
However, some caution is required when using email signatures.
- Don't include unnecessary personal information
I receive many emails from people that include a worrying amount of details in the email signature. These details often include the sender's full name, street address and phone numbers. While such information may not exactly be secret, blasting it across the Internet at large is probably not a good idea. Once an email leaves your inbox, you have no control over where it ends up. If it is the type of email that is likely to be forwarded, your personal details may spread far and wide and end up in the evil clutches of scammers, spammers and other undesirables. If you run a business and use your email signature for promotion, then you have a legitimate reason for including your contact details. However, if you are just sending private email, I'd suggest that you only include a first name and general locality in your email signature.
- Ensure that the signature is appropriate for your recipient.
People often include a catchy saying or quote in their signature. There is even software that can randomly add such snippets. While this is all well and good, some such signature snippets may be adult orientated or otherwise inappropriate for certain recipients. For example, if you are sending a message to an email discussion group, a signature with "adult" material or link promoting your website might break the group rules. Thus, it is always a good idea to take a few second to check that your outgoing email signature is appropriate for its intended audience.
Sony Ericsson Phone Giveaway Hoax
The email message included below is a hoax.
Sony Ericsson will not
give the recipient of this email message a free phone even if he or she does
send it to 8 or more people. Those who send an email to the contact address included in the email will receive the following automated message from Sony Ericsson:
This message / promotion is not
a genuine Sony Ericsson promotion. We suspect that the people behind this hoax virus/email campaign hope to obtain and misuse the personal data of those who participate.
Please do not forward this promotion on.
Versions of this aging email hoax have been circulating for several years. The original incarnation
targeted Nokia rather than Ericsson, but the content of the message was very similar to the example shown above.
After the Nokia hoax began circulating, someone launched the first Ericsson version (shown below) that claimed Ericsson wanted to "counter" Nokia's offer by giving away free Ericsson phones.
Interestingly, both the Nokia and Ericsson adaptations of the hoax claim to be endorsed by one "Anna Swelund", or variations such as "Anna Swelam" and Anna Swelan".
As stated, there are several mutations of this hoax, all of them equally false. It would be highly unlikely that Ericsson, Nokia, or any other reputable company, would launch a promotional campaign based on how many times a particular message was sent onward. If you receive one of these email hoaxes, please inform the sender that the message is untrue and do not send it to others.
Nokia Giveaway Hoax
Ericsson Free Phone Hoax
An example of the hoax email:
Knowing how our young are always on the lookout for an upgrade to the latest phones why not pass on to all your friends and relatives the following mail from Sony Erricsson:-
SonyErricsson is giving away phones for free. SonyErricsson is Trying
word-of-mouth advertising to introduce its product and the reward You
receive for advertising for them is a free phone free of cost.
To receive your free phone all you have to do is to send this email Out
to 8 people (for a free SonyErricsson j200i) or 20 people (for a Free
SonyErricsson k400i WAP).
Within 2 weeks you will receive a free phone. (They will contact you
through your e-mail address). Please mark a copy to: -
Computer Tricks and Tips - Excellent Yahoo Group
Over the years, I've been a member of a great many email
discussion groups and even run a few of my own. One of my all
time favourites is Computer Tricks and Tips, a very friendly
and helpful computer support group. I've certainly gained a lot
of invaluable computer knowledge from this group.
The group owners and moderators are exceptionally dedicated and
knowledgeable. They always do their best to help members. I know
that they also spend a lot of time working behind the scenes in
order to ensure that the group runs smoothly.
No matter what your level of computer knowledge, you will be made
to feel welcome. You need never feel apprehensive about asking a
computer related question, however simple. And you may also be
able to use your own computing experience to help other members.
In short, Computer Tricks and Tips is one of the friendliest,
helpful and professionally managed computer discussion groups
around! It is well worth checking out.
Sony PSP Giveaway Hoax Email
The claim made in this email forward is false. Sony will not
give you a PSP console just for sending an email message to 20 people. Sony South Africa has published information on its website debunking the hoax as quoted below:
Sony South Africa: Urgent Notice - Hoax e-mail PSP GIVEAWAY!!!
It has recently been brought to Sony South Africa's attention that a hoax e-mail is being circulated offering a free PSP. Although Sony playstation is distributed by Ster Kinekor in South Africa, Sony South Africa would like to alert all customers of this hoax.
Furthermore, the contact email address included in the message seems to be invalid. Mail sent to the address generates a bounce message that warns that there is no such mailbox.
The message is just one more in a long line of email hoaxes that promise free products, services, vouchers or cash in exchange for forwarding the message. Virtually all such messages are bogus. It is very unlikely that any legitimate company would base a promotional giveaway on how many times an email message was sent to others. While companies do often give away products or services as part of promotional campaigns, such giveaways are conducted under controlled conditions. A giveaway based on how many times an email was forwarded could very quickly spiral out of control. Such messages can potentially reach hundreds of thousands of recipients in a comparatively short amount of time. The email does not contain any time limit or legal restrictions for the supposed giveaway. If the message was true, Sony could find that they were obligated to give away many thousands of PSP consoles and the company could suffer serious financial losses as a result. There is exceptionally little chance that any genuine company would put itself in such a financially vulnerable position.
The phrasing of this hoax message is reminiscent of the long running Nokia Giveaway Hoax
and its variants
These foolish hoax messages waste bandwidth and clutter inboxes around the world. If you receive such a hoax message, please do not forward it to others.
Urgent Notice - Hoax e-mail PSP GIVEAWAY!!!
iafrica.com: PSP giveaway e-mail a hoax
An example of the hoax email:
Sony is giving away PSP consoles "FREE"!! Sony is trying word-of-mouth
advertising to introduce its products. And the reward you receive for
advertising for them is a PSP free of cost!
To receive your free PSP all you need to do is send this email out to
20 people for a PSP value pack (see attached picture).
Within 2 weeks you will receive a free PSP!
(They contact you via your email address).
**IMPORTANT You must send a copy to email@example.com
Sony Head of Marketing
Office Hours: Mon - Fri 08:15 - 16:45
Fri 08:15 - 16:30
Telephone Number: [Removed]
Fax Number: [Removed]
My new XP-Tips website is making progress. I've added a number
of new tips to the site during the last month. Also, I have now
created a discussion forum to add some interactivity to the site.
The forum allows site visitors to ask questions about the tips
featured, offer tips of their own or participate in general
As mentioned in the last issue, a number of people have contacted
me over the last year or so to ask if they can make a voluntary
financial contribution to help the Hoax-Slayer project. In view
of these requests, a PayPal "Donate" button is now available on
the Hoax-Slayer site.
Thank you very much for all those who were kind enough to support
the Hoax-Slayer project by making a donation over the last few
Hoax-Slayer Humour: VIRUS ALERT Joke
This rather harmless email forward is designed to make fun of the dire virus hoaxes
that often circulate. Perhaps if recipients get a laugh out of reading this satirical "Virus Alert" email, they will be less likely to believe and forward the next "serious" virus hoax that crosses their inboxes.
Unfortunately, if past experience is anything to go by, some will afford the email only the most cursory of examinations before forwarding it to all in their address book in the believe that it is a legitimate warning.
Any virus warning that arrives via email should ideally be verified at a reputable anti-virus or anti-hoax website before being forwarded to others.
Subj: VIRUS ALERT Status: PUBLIC MESSAGE
Warning: There's a new virus on the loose that's worse than anything I've seen before! It gets in through the power line, riding on the powerline 60 Hz subcarrier. It works by changing the serial port pinouts, and by reversing the direction one's disks spin. Over 300,000 systems have been hit by it here in Murphy, West Dakota, alone! And that's just in the last 12 minutes.
It attacks DOS, Unix, TOPS-20, Apple-II, VMS, MVS, Multics, Mac, RSX-11, ITS, TRS-80, and VHS systems.
To prevent the spread of the worm:
1) Don't use the powerline.
2) Don't use batteries either, since there are rumours that this virus has invaded most major battery plants, and is infecting the positive poles of the batteries. (You might try hooking up just the negative pole.)
3) Don't upload or delete or download files.
4) Don't store files on floppy disks or hard disks.
5) Don't read messages. No, not even this one!
6) Don't use serial ports, toasters, modems, or phone lines.
7) Don't use keyboards, screens, electric toothbrushes, or printers.
8) Don't use switches, CPUs, memories, microprocessors, or mainframes.
9) Don't use electric lights, electric or gas heat, or airconditioning, running water, vibrators, writing, fire, clothing, or the wheel.
I'm sure if we are all careful to follow these 9 easy steps, this virus can be eradicated, and the precious electronic fluids of our computers can be kept pure.
The Hoax_Slayer Newsletter is published by:
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©Brett M. Christensen, 2008
Questions or Comments