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Issue 64 - Hoax-Slayer Newsletter

Issue 64: August, 2006

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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Mars And Earth Close Hoax (Again)

The email shown below informs recipients that the planet Mars will be passing very close to Earth in August. Although the year is not specifically mentioned, most would assume that the message refers to August, 2006. However, the claims in the message are untrue, at least for 2006. A virtually identical (and equally misleading) message was circulating back in July and August 2005. The events outlined in the message were more or less true back in 2003 although they were a little hyped even then. According to NASA, on August 27, 2003, Earth and Mars were the closest they have been for around 60,000 years. Mars was indeed a spectacular site in the night sky during several months of 2003.

However, this fact is not quite as earth shattering as you might think. A 2003 NASA article on the subject explains that:
Much has been made of the fact that the August 27th encounter with Mars is the closest in some 60,000 years. Neanderthals were the last to observe Mars so favorably placed. This is true. It's also a bit of hype. Mars and Earth have been almost this close many times in recent history.
And, in fact, Mars is currently a far less than "spectacular" sight in the night sky. According to Earth and Sky:
For most of 2006, Mars is on the far side of the sun from us. Throughout late July and August 2006, Mars is about as inconspicuous as it can get. It's low in the west after sunset. By September 2006 - as Earth continues to outrace Mars in orbit - our faster motion in orbit will bring the sun between us and Mars. Then Mars won't be visible at all. It'll be crossing the sky with the sun during the day.

This message seems set to keep resurfacing every year and duping a whole new set of recipients into gazing rather fruitlessly at the night sky. But don't despair! Close encounters with Mars are not such uncommon events. The claim that "NO ONE ALIVE TODAY WILL EVER SEE THIS AGAIN!" is misleading. It is true that the next time Mars will be as close to earth as it was in 2003 will be on August 28, 2287. In the mean time however, there will be plenty of other close approaches, so our children and our children's children are not likely to miss out altogether.

Perhaps by 2287 some of our descendants will be observing the close encounter from the Martian perspective.



References:
2003 NASA Article: Approaching Mars
Hubble Makes Best Mars Globe Photos Ever
Will Mars be close in August 2006?
Mars Opposition

An example of the hoax email:
Subject: NO ONE ALIVE TODAY WILL EVER SEE THIS AGAIN

Thought this is interesting enough to pass around

IT OUGHT TO BE SOMETHING TO SEE!

Once in a lifetime...

Mars


Image of Mars

The Red Planet is about to be spectacular!

This month and next, Earth is catching up with Mars in an encounter that will culminate in the closest approach between the two planets in recorded history. The next time Mars may come this close is in 2287. Due to the way Jupiter's gravity tugs on Mars and perturbs its orbit, astronomers can only be certain that Mars has not come this close to Earth in the Last 5,000 years, but it may be as long as 60,000 years before it happens again.

The encounter will culminate on August 27th when Mars comes to within 34,649,589 miles of Earth and will be (next to the moon) the brightest object in the night sky. It will attain a magnitude of - 2.9 and will appear 25.11 arc seconds wide. At a modest 75-power magnification Mars will look as large as the full moon to the naked eye .

Mars will be easy to spot. At the beginning of August it will rise in the east at 10p.m. and reach its azimuth at about 3 a.m.

By the end of August when the two planets are closest , Mars will rise at nightfall and reach its highest point in the sky at 12:30a.m. That's pretty convenient to see something that no human being has seen in recorded history. So, mark your calendar at the beginning of August to see Mars grow progressively brighter and brighter throughout the month.

Share this with your children and grandchildren.

NO ONE ALIVE TODAY WILL EVER SEE THIS AGAIN


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Vishing Scams - Phone Based Phishing

Reports indicate that instances of a new kind of phishing scam are increasing in frequency. Dubbed "vishing" for "voice phishing", the scam attempts to trick users into supplying sensitive personal information via a bogus telephone call rather than on a fake website.

While an increasing number of Internet users are now wise to the methods used in "traditional" phishing scams, this new phone-based tactic is likely to reap a whole new set of victims. Several institutions, including online payment service, PayPal, have recently been targeted by vishing scams.

"Normal" phishing scams generally try to trick recipients into clicking a link in a bogus email, ostensibly to update their details. The email will appear to have been sent by a legitimate institution such as a bank. However, the link in the message leads to a fake website where the recipient will be asked to provide personal information such as passwords and credit card details. Information provided will then be harvested by the scammers. (An example of a "normal" phishing scam is included later in this issue).

Vishing scams also use a bogus email that asks users to update their information. However, the recipient is requested to ring an included telephone number to provide the information rather than visit a website. When the number is called, a recorded message will ask the user to provide sensitive information. As with other kinds of phishing scams, this information can then be used by scammers to access bank or credit accounts or steal the victim's identity.

An even more insidious variant of vishing does not use email at all. Instead, the victim receives a telephone call that plays a recorded message that requests personal information. Often, the scammers use a "war dialler" (a computer program that can be used to automatically call telephone numbers within a given range) in order to reach a large number of potential victims. In a related scam, the criminal attempts to obtain CVV2/CVC2 security numbers by phoning credit card holders and posing as Security and Fraud Department staff from Visa or MasterCard.

Vishing scammers are capitalizing on the low cost and anonymity of Internet telephony that is now widely available via Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP). VoIP is proving to be an excellent vehicle for vishing scams.

As with phishing scams, vishing attacks are not hard to thwart once consumers have knowledge of how they operate. If you receive an unsolicited email or phone call that requests you to provide sensitive information over the telephone, do not comply. Instead, you should locate a contact number for the institution that supposedly placed the call (do not use a contact number provided by the caller), and call the institution directly to check the legitimacy of the request.

With identity theft scams growing increasingly more sophisticated, it is wise for consumers to treat any unsolicited request for personal information with suspicion. Spending a few minutes verifying if a request for information is legitimate could save you from having money stolen from your accounts or suffering the enduring nightmare of identity theft.

The links below provide more information about vishing scams:
USATODAY.com - Internet con artists turn to 'vishing'
Cyber-criminals switch to VoIP 'vishing'
Email Scammers Try New Bait in 'Vishing' For Fresh Victims
Visa & MasterCard Telephone Credit Card Scam

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Breast Larvae Infestation From Undergarments Hoax

Please note:I have not included the breast rash image discussed in this article within the newsletter itself as some readers may find it disturbing. Also, the image is unsuitable for children. However, you can view the image in a separate window here.

The emailed "warning" included below claims that anthropologist Susan McKinley developed an unusual rash on her breast after a trip to South America. According to the message, which arrives with a picture of the supposed rash, doctors subsequently found that live larvae were growing in the breast. However, the breast rash "photograph" is almost certainly a fake created by combining two or more images in a graphics manipulation program. An article about the message on Snopes.com, points out the strong similarity between the "rash" and a lotus seedpod. The images below clearly illustrate this similarity:

Part of Breast Rash Image          Close up of Lotus Seed Pod
Part of Breast Rash Image                           Close up of Lotus Seed Pod


More Lotus Seedpods
More Lotus Seedpods                           Lotus Seedpod


Although larvae infestation of the breasts is possible (as discussed below), genuine images of such infestations bear no resemblance to the rash supposedly depicted in the message. In fact, I could find no genuine photograph of any sort of skin condition resembling the one included in this "warning" email. If true, such an unusual breast rash would surely have been published in medical journals and websites along with more information about the condition.

Moreover, I could find no credible information that substantiates references in the message to an anthropologist named "Susan McKinley". It seems probable that the story of this hapless scientist's encounter with such nasty breast beasties is a work of fiction concocted solely to go with the unusual picture. Snopes.com notes that the picture was published online in other contexts as far back as 2003 and was only later associated with apparent larvae infestation and "Susan McKinley".

Some versions of the warning include a photograph attributed to Michael Bohne that supposedly shows some of the larvae extracted from the infested breast. However, an Internet search on the photographer's name reveals that the same photograph is displayed on the Forestry Images website and depicts the larvae of the Asian longhorned beetle. Thus, the picture has no connection with the breast rash image or the illusive "Miss McKinley" and has apparently been added only to enhance the perceived shock value of the warning message.

Other versions of the message also include a graphic video that ostensibly depicts larvae being removed from "Miss McKinley's" breast. Although the video is genuine, it has no relation whatsoever to the breast rash image or the spurious claims made in the message. The video was originally published online as part of a 2004 BMC Surgery journal article, that describes a case of Furuncular myiasis of the breast caused by the larvae of the Tumbu fly (Cordylobia anthropophaga). The patient in the video is in fact a 70-year-old women living in Nigerian who had fourteen larvae removed from her right breast. The video footage shows no evidence of the lotus-seed like rash and it clearly does not depict the same woman featured in the hoax message picture. (The video is available for viewing via a link within the BMC Surgery article).

Cordylobia anthropophaga eggs can be deposited in soil or wet and dirty clothing that is hung out to dry, and the article advises that good personal hygiene and ironing clothes before wearing can be effective preventative measures against infestation. While eggs can be present in soiled clothing, their presence in brand new, store bought clothing seems fairly unlikely. The journal article notes:
C. anthropophaga is a large, robust brownish yellow fly found widely throughout tropical Africa. It deposits 100–300 eggs on soil polluted with animal excrement or on clothing saturated with perspiration and soiled diapers. After hatching, the larvae can stay alive for seven to twenty days, while attached to contaminated articles and clothing or the soil. On contact with the skin of man or other vertebrates they easily penetrate the skin.

Given the mode of transmission described, older clothing that has been directly exposed to the fly and poorly laundered is probably a lot more likely to harbour the larvae than new and unworn store-bought underwear.

That said, the message's advice to wash new garments before wearing them is not without merit. New clothing often has a chemical finish designed to make the clothes look and smell better in the shop or prevent mildew or pest contamination during shipping. These chemicals may cause skin irritation in some people. Possible factory or storeroom contamination by insects or rodents and unhygienic handling by other shoppers are further reasons to wash new garments before wearing, especially with regard to babies or those with allergies or sensitive skin.

Overall, however, this "warning" message contains false and unsubstantiated information and forwarding it to others will serve no good purpose.

References:
Snopes: Breast Rash
Furuncular myiasis of the breast caused by the larvae of the Tumbu fly (Cordylobia anthropophaga)
Asian longhorned beetle, Anoplophora glabripennis (Coleoptera: Cerambycidae) @ Forestry Images
Howstuffworks "Why do some clothing items have a tag saying to wash the item before wearing?"

An example of the hoax email:
WASH YOUR BRAS (PLEASE READ)PHOTO AT BOTTOM .GROSS!!!!

Be prepared but read story first. Makes you glad us men don't have boobs

Don't look at the pictures just after eating something, this is truly revolting but it's a huge warning!!!!!!!!!!!!!

=======READ THIS BEFORE LOOKING AT PICTURE========

After anthropologist Susan McKinley came back home from an expedition in South America, she noticed a very strange rash on her left breast.

Nobody knew what it was and she dismissed it believing that the holes would leave in time.

Upon her return she decided to see a doctor after she started developing intense pains. The doctor, not knowing the exact severity of the disease, gave her antibiotics and special creams. As time lapsed the pain did not subside and her left breast became more inflamed and started to bleed.

She decided to bandage her sores, however as Susan's pain grew more intense she decided to seek help from a more certified doctor. Dr. Lynch could not diagnose the infection and told Susan to seek the aid of one of his colleagues who specializes in dermatology. Unfortunately, the doctor was on vacation.

She waited for two weeks and finally was able to reach the dermatologist.

Sadly, a life changing event was about to unfold during her appointment. To Miss McKinley's surprise, after she removed the bandages, they found larvae growing and squirming within the pores and sores of her breast.

What she didn't know was that the holes were in fact, deeper than she had originally thought, for these larvae were feeding off the fat, tissue, and even milk canals of her breast.

Our undergarments are made in different countries all over the world. They sit in boxes and go through many hands and exchanges before we purchase them for ourselves.

WE DO NOT KNOW WHAT PARASITES ARE IN OUR CLOTHING WHEN WE BUY THEM.

Please make it a habit from this point forward to wash your just-purchased undergarments or ANY garments before wearing them.

Note:I have not included the breast rash image within the newsletter itself as some readers may find it disturbing. Also, the image is unsuitable for children.

Click the link below to view the image in a separate window:

Breast Rash Image



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Learn How to Secure Your Computer With The Hacker's Nightmare

A great way to ensure that your computers, and your important files, are really safe and secure is to implement the knowledge found in "The Hacker's Nightmare", a terrific computer security eBook. I consider "The Hacker's Nightmare to be an extremely valuable computer security resource that is well worth the purchase price.

One of the great advantages of "The Hacker's Nightmare" is that it is presented in plain English and even inexperienced computer users should have no problems understanding and implementing the advice it contains. The book unfolds as a step-by-step tutorial that shows you how to secure your computer and practice safe and efficient computing. The book eloquently explains why a particular computer security or safety procedure is necessary. It then supplies detailed instructions about how to implement the procedure. For example, if the author, Bill Hely, recommends that readers install a particular program, he explains why the software is necessary as well as how to download, install and configure it. The book runs to almost 500 pages, so while it is easy to understand and does not drown the reader in jargon or unnecessary technical details, it does thoroughly cover a wide range of computer security and safety issues.

Bill Hely writes very well, and he has incorporated a great many screen shots and illustrations that make it quite simple to follow the instructions he provides. The book is in PDF, so that you can download and begin reading immediately after purchase.

Regardless of whether you are a new computer user running a single machine, you maintain a home network for your family or you are responsible for computers in a business environment, this book can help you implement a very high level of computer security. What's more, "The Hacker's Nightmare" gives you the knowledge to achieve this high level of computer security without the need to outlay large fees for professional security consultants or highly priced software.

Millions of computers around the world run virtually unprotected from hackers, worms, viruses, trojans, spyware, spammers, scammers and all manner of heinous cyber-scum. The good news is that even the most inexperienced computer user can very effectively take control of all the threats listed above by implementing the free or inexpensive computer security methods outlined in "The Hacker's Nightmare". Unfortunately, many people still think that they do not really need to secure their computers or that good computer security is "too hard" or "too expensive" for "ordinary" computer users. "The Hacker's Nightmare" very effectively lays all these dangerous myths to rest.

Many computer users who think they have adequate computer security in place might be shocked to find out how vulnerable their systems really are. If every Windows computer user read and implemented the knowledge contained in "The Hacker's Nightmare", the Internet would be a much safer and more productive environment in which to work and play. I am proud to be an affiliate for "The Hacker's Nightmare", and I unreservedly recommend this book for all those who want to ensure that their computers and their information remains safe and secure.

Visit the Hacker's Nightmare Website

As noted above, I am an affiliate for "The Hacker's Nightmare". For more information please refer to my Affiliate Marketing Policy



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Mr Clean Magic Erasers Contain Formaldehyde Hoax

The emailed warning below claims that Mr Clean Magic Erasers contain formaldehyde and are potentially dangerous to users, especially children. However, the claims in the warning message are unfounded and they have been denied by Procter & Gamble, the company that markets the product. Mr Clean Magic Erasers are sponge cleaners that are suitable for a range of household cleaning jobs.

The rumour may have derived from a misinterpretation of the chemical name of an ingredient in the product. According to information about the rumour on Procter & Gamble's "Mr. Clean" website:
Formaldehyde is not and has never been an ingredient in Magic Eraser. One ingredient in Magic Eraser (formaldehyde-melamine-sodium bisulfite copolymer) contains the word "formaldehyde" in its chemical name. However, this ingredient is not formaldehyde and poses no health or safety risks. (Think of this name like "sodium chloride", which is table salt. Sodium by itself can be dangerous, but sodium chloride - salt - is safe.).

Trace amounts of formaldehyde may be present in the product as a result of the manufacturing process. However, according to Procter & Gamble, "the amount present is significantly lower than standards established by governmental agencies and trade associations, and is actually less than what is found in indoor air".

The message claims that Mr Clean Magic Erasers are "slowly being banned from all stores". However, research reveals that there is no legitimate information pertaining to a recall of the product. If Magic Erasers really did contain formaldehyde or another dangerous product and were being recalled, information about the recall would be available via official sources and news media. Genuine warnings to consumers about potentially dangerous products tend to be well publicized, and they certainly do not rely solely on the random distribution of a vague and poorly written email forward (especially one amateurishly rendered in all capital letters).

Thus the "warning" has no foundation in fact and it should not be forwarded.

References:
Mr. Clean Magic Eraser: Information you should know
Product Summary: Mr. Clean Magic Eraser

An example of the hoax email:
IF YOU ARE USING MR. CLEAN MAGIC ERASERS....STOP!

HI EVERYONE,

JUST WANTED TO LET YOU ALL KNOW THAT I AM A HUGE FAN OF MAGIC ERASERS.....HOWEVER, I HAVE A FRIEND THAT TOOK ENGINEERING IN SCHOOL AND HE NOW WORKS FOR A HUGE COMPANY IN HALIFAX AND THEY GET THE HEADS UP ABOUT PRODUCTS BEFORE ANYONE ELSE. WELL HE CALLED ME LAST NIGHT AND SAID THAT I HAVE TO STOP USING THE MAGIC ERASERS AND THAT THEY ARE SLOWLY BEING BANNED FROM ALL STORES BECAUSE THEY CONTAIN THE INGREDIENT FORMALDEHYDE. YES THE CHEMICAL THEY USE TO PRESERVE DEAD PEOPLE. IT IS HIGHLY DANGEROUS TO YOUNG CHILDREN AND CAN BE HARMFUL TO YOURSELF, SO PLEASE IF YOU ARE USING THEM, THROW THEM AWAY, DON'T BUY THEM ANYMORE AND PLEASE SEND THIS ON TO ANYONE WHOM YOU THINK MIGHT USE THEM, ESPECIALLY WITH YOUNG CHILDREN. THANKS

PS- SORRY FOR THE BAD NEWS, I WAS DISAPPOINTED TOO!


[TOP]



Let's Say Thanks Website - Send a Card to a Soldier

This message urges recipients to say "thank-you" to US Armed Forces personnel serving overseas by visiting a website and selecting a card to be printed and sent to a soldier. The information in the message is true.

In June 2006, Xerox launched Let'sSayThanks.com, a website that allows visitors to select from a range of postcard designs created by US children and add a personalized message to a soldier. The cards are then printed out and delivered to soldiers deployed in Iraq, Afghanistan and other locations. Information on Let'sSayThanks.com outlines the purpose of the site:
The mission of Let's Say Thanks is to provide a way for individuals across the country to recognize U.S. troops stationed overseas. By submitting a message through this site you will send a free personalized postcard greeting to deployed servicemen and women.

The postcards, depicting patriotic scenes and hometown images, were selected from a pool of entries from children across the country.

According to the Let's Say Thanks FAQ, postcards are printed in batches and distributed to various locations along with care packages from Give2TheTroops®. Cards should reach their destination in one or two months from the time they are submitted on the site.

A 4th July Jacksonville Daily News article about Let's Say Thanks noted that around 7000 cards had already been sent to US troops overseas at the time of writing.

References:
Let's Say Thanks
Let's Say Thanks: About Us
Let's Say Thanks: FAQ
Give2TheTroops®
Jacksonville Daily News: Quick on the draw

An example of the email message:
Subject: Let's say "THANKS" to our Armed Forces Personnel..

Let's Say Thanks!

http://www.letssaythanks.com/

If you go to the web site at LetsSayThanks.com you can pick out a thank you card and the Xerox Corporation will print it and it will be sent to a soldier that is currently serving in Iraq. You can't pick out who gets it, but it will go to some member of the armed services. It is FREE and it only takes a second. Wouldn't it be wonderful if the soldiers received a bunch of these?


[TOP]

Responding to Hoax Emails

What do you do if you get an email that you know is a hoax?

If you receive a lot of hoax and other garbage emails, it can be tempting to fire off an irate reply condemning the sender for his or her foolishness. Serial hoax-forwarders might actually deserve such a reply. These email pests consistently refuse to check before forwarding even when recipients repeatedly point out their gullibility. However, the majority of people who forward a hoax email do so in good faith and perhaps simply need a bit of guidance on the issue from a more Internet savvy individual.

That said, I think there is a right way and a wrong way to go about providing this guidance. Here's what works for me:
  1. Be Subtle!
    Nobody likes to be ridiculed. If a reply is overly aggressive and makes people feel stupid they are likely to focus on defending themselves from a perceived attack and your chance to set the record straight may be lost. In other words, if you get a person's back up, he or she probably won't believe anything you try to tell them anyway.

    So, it is well worth spending a few minutes formulating a polite and subtle reply. The outcome is likely to be a lot more positive.

  2. Backup Your Argument
    Even if you are subtle, the sender is unlikely to feel good about being taken in by a hoax. Human nature being what it is, he or she may well try to avoid feeling foolish by defending the claims in the message and disputing your argument. Therefore, always try to include one or more good external references in your message that back up your conclusions.

  3. Take the Chance To Educate
    Your reply also gives you a chance to help the sender learn how to avoid being caught by hoaxes in the future. Explain how and where you check the truth of messages before you forward them.

  4. Don't do a "Reply All"
    Often, the "To" line of the hoax message reveals that it has been sent to many other people besides yourself. (You might also like to talk to the sender about trimming addresses and using Blind Carbon Copy...but that's another story Smile). Some people simply do a "Reply All" when they send their hoax-rebuttal message.

    While it might seem like this is a good method to let everyone know about the hoax at once, I think there are some real problems with this method. Firstly, there is a good chance that you don't know everyone on the list, so you are basically sending an unsolicited message to strangers. Some might call that spamming. Secondly, at least some of the recipients may already know the message is a hoax and have no need to receive another email rebutting the first. Thirdly, and perhaps most importantly, you run the risk of humiliating the original sender in the eyes of his or her friends and acquaintances. That is quite unlikely to be helpful! (See Point 1 above).

    I generally just suggest that the sender let others know that the message turned out to be a hoax. Whether they do so or not is basically their business.


I've found that a reply something like the following generally gains a good response:

Subject: Re: (whatever hoax message)

Hi [Sender's Name],

Thanks for your message.

However, I need to tell you that the email is actually a known hoax. You can check this for yourself by reading the article(s) at the link(s) below:
[ADD LINK]

There are a great many email hoaxes going around all the time and some keep circulating for years. Most of us have fallen for an email hoax at some point I think, including yours truly (grin). These days, before I forward an email message, I always check it out at:
[Add links to one or more hoax information websites]

Another good way to check if a message is a hoax, is to conduct an Internet search using a key phrase from the message. This will often bring up one or more reputable articles that clearly indicate if the claims in the message are true or false.

You might like to let whoever sent you the message know that it is a hoax as well.

Hope this helps.

Best wishes
[Your Name]

Unfortunately, there are some people that simply will not believe that a message is a hoax regardless of how compelling the evidence you present to them. In most cases, however, by using a good approach to the issue, you can help another Internet user become a little wiser and, indirectly, reduce the amount of nonsense emails that clutter inboxes.



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Phishing Scam Targets PayPal Users

The phishing scam message shown below is typical of many other fraudulent emails that target users of online payment service, PayPal.

The scam email is formatted to look like a genuine PayPal message and includes official looking logos. The message warns recipients that their PayPal account will be suspended if they do not update their personal records. Recipients are instructed to click a link in the email to update their account. The message uses HTML to disguise the link so that it resembles a genuine PayPal web address.

Recipients who click on the bogus link are taken to the following fake PayPal login page:

Bogus Login page

Although the web page closely resembles a genuine PayPal page, it is in fact a fraudulent copy that tries to trick victims into entering their PayPal email address and password.

Once a victim logs in to the fake site, he or she is then asked to provide credit card details as shown in the screenshot below:

Fake Update Request

If the victim provides credit card details and clicks the "Submit" button, he or she is requested to provide other sensitive personal information on subsequent pages of the fake web form.

Information entered into the fake website can then be used by the scammers to access the victim's genuine PayPal account, use the victim's credit card and possibly even steal the victim's identity.

Be wary of any email that asks you to click a link and provide sensitive personal information such as passwords or credit card details. PayPal and other legitimate companies do not request such information from customers in this way. To learn how to recognise phishing scams and effectively protect yourself from this sort of fraud, follow the link below.

Phishing Scams - Anti-Phishing Information

The PayPal website also provides comprehensive information about PayPal related scams.

An example of the scam email:
[Text of scam message]

Subject: PayPal Account Suspension Notice - PayPal Account Limited

Dear valued PayPal® member:

It has come to our attention that your PayPal® account information needs to be updated as part of our continuing commitment to protect your account and to reduce the instance of fraud on our website. If you could please take 5-10 minutes out of your online experience and update your personal records you will not run into any future problems with the online service.

However, failure to update your records will result in account suspension.

Once you have updated your account records, your PayPal® session will not be interrupted and will continue as normal.

To update your PayPal® records click on the following link:
[Link to fake website Removed]

Thank You.
PayPal® UPDATE TEAM

Screenshot of original scam email
HTML version of scam email



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Images of Mermaid Washed Ashore

Summary:
Circulating photographs of a strange sea-creature are claimed to depict the body of a mermaid or alien found on a beach.

Status:
False - The images show a sculpture by Juan Cabana

Example:(Submitted, August 2006)
Subject: Strange Creature

The mermaid found on Malaysian island:

Malaysian Mermaid 1


Malaysian Mermaid 2


Malaysian Mermaid 3


Malaysian Mermaid 5



Commentary:
These images have been circulating via email, forums and blogs since 2006. They supposedly show a strange mermaid-like creature found washed ashore. This variant claims that the mermaid was found on a Malaysian island. Alternative versions of the message relocate the discovery to other parts of the world. Yet another version of the message claims that the creature is actually of extraterrestrial origin:
An alien was found by a fisherman in Teluk Bahang. Newspapers aren't allowed to publish it. Some mayb seen it b4. I dont know the percentage of original. Dont ask me what happen to the alien or where is the alien now either. Im curious to know it as well.
Not surprisingly, however, the mermaid is not a real, flesh and blood creature, but instead a sculpture by talented artist, Juan Cabana. A series of photographs of the mermaid can be found on the artist's website along with an entire menagerie of other strange and wonderful creations.

Mr Cabana has sold this mermaid and other creations via eBay auctions under the name "SeaMystery". According to information previously available on the auction website, the winning bid for the mermaid was recorded at $1,550.00 US.

Cabana does not specifically state that his creatures are sculptures in his eBay descriptions. Instead, he creates fictional cover stories to go with the sculptures that include such information as how and where the particular creature was supposedly washed ashore and subsequently discovered. In an enlightening Small WORLD PodCast interview, the artist claims that he gives the items a cover story to create excitement about the sale and add an element of fun. He says that he at first made clear in his auction listings that he had actually made the objects but that approach "seemed like it was boring". Adding a story, he says, generates a lot more excitement. He assumes that most potential buyers will understand that the stories are tongue in cheek. Within the context of their original eBay listings, this assumption is not unreasonable. However, when the pictures and stories "escape" into cyberspace and get passed around out of their original context, they are apt to deceive many recipients. It should be noted that the images are taken from the eBay listings and distributed without Mr Cabana's permission or knowledge.

The artist uses a variety of materials to create his mermaids and monsters, including animal skulls, fish and animal skin, steel, plastic and fiberglass.

Folk tales and apparent sightings of mermaids have been around for centuries. Juan Cabana's mermaid joins a long line of fabricated mermaid carcasses that manage to tap into our deep-seated fascination for such creatures. Mr Cabana's exceptional talent at creating quite life-like creatures means that these mermaid images and the various descriptions that accompany them, are likely to continue circulating for a long time to come.

References:
Tampa Bay Beach Sea Monster
Dead mermaid found on beach, interview with sculptor Juan Cabana
Dead Mermaid Found in the Philippines

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Photos of Big Gator With a Deer in its Mouth

The email forward included below arrives with photographs that show a very large alligator swimming with a fully grown deer in its mouth. The photographs have been circulating, along with variants of the email message shown above, since 2004. According to this version of the message, the photographs were taken from the KTBS helicopter over Lake Conroe, Texas. Other versions of the message use alternative locations, including Lake George (Florida), Cross Lake (Louisiana) and Lake Murray (South Carolina).

The photographs are genuine. However, they were not taken over Lake Conroe or any of the other locations mentioned. Nor were they taken from a news helicopter. In fact, the photographs were taken by Terri Jenkins, of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in a wildlife refuge near Savannah, Georgia . According to information in a 2004 U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service Press Release:
The photographs of this deer-eating alligator were taken from the air by Terri Jenkins, a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service District Fire Management Officer. She was preparing to ignite a prescribed fire at Harris Neck National Wildlife Refuge, about 40 miles south of Savannah, Georgia, on March 4, 2004.

Jenkins took the photographs from a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service helicopter used for igniting controlled fires. She estimates that the alligator was at least 12 or 13 feet long.

References:
Press Release: Alligator Takes Deer to Lunch in South Georgia
Harris Neck National Wildlife Refuge
Alligators - E V E R G L A D E S N A T I O N A L P A R K

An example of the email:
This picture was taken by a KTBS helicopter flying over Lake Conroe !

(For those of you who are not local, Lake Conroe is near Conroe, TX .)

That has to be a HUGE gator to have a whole deer in its mouth!

Are you ready to go skiing on Lake Conroe ?!
If you ski at the west end of the lake -- try not to fall.

Gator with deer in its mouth

Another view of the gator with deer.

Photos by Terri Jenkins, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service




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Hoax-Slayer Humour: People You Work With

Have you worked with people like the ones in these pictures?? I certainly have!! Smile

People You Work With

Enjoy a good laugh?
Read my review of the "That's Comedy! Joke Book"

New Humour Section added to Hoax-Slayer Website

Along with all the scam, spam and hoax emails that arrive in my email inbox, there are generally a few fantastic forwards that help to brighten my day. Some have been included in this segment of the newsletter over the last few months. This humour segment is very popular with subscribers, and I've now expanded the concept a little by adding a permanent Hoax-Slayer Humour section to the website.

Check out the new humour section!
Fantastic Forwards - Hoax-Slayer Humour


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