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Friday, May 09, 2008

Internet Hoaxes

I don't know about you, but my e-mail seems to be more polluted than ever with cyberspace trash. The pitiful, dying widows in Nigeria who have these millions to donate for Christian ministry - if only these pathetic wretches could find someone willing to take their money. The officer of Barclays Bank in the U.K., who's acting on behalf of a kidnapped diplomat in the Middle East - he just needs my bank information to wire millions. Just in the last week, I must have received at least two dozen of these. Simply amazing.

Are there really people out there who are stupid enough to fall for this crap? Do the crooks in Nigeria think that Americans just fell off the tomato truck? Or do they think we're really that greedy? One has to think that someone must fall for this stuff - or they wouldn't keep sending it. But who? The claims are so ridiculous.

You know, I could probably write better hoaxes myself. Mine would probably be an attorney representing the estate of Aaron Spelling, who didn't want his children to get their hands on his hundreds of millions. Or maybe the trustees of Leona Helmsley's trust, trying to figure out who to give it to. Perhaps I'd be a flunky for Paris Hilton, trying to help her become a philanthropist. At least mine would be something that people could relate to. And I'd be from New York, or Switzerland - some place credible. Nigeria? Ivory Coast? No way.

Then there are the e-mail SPAM. You know, they are the jokes, chain letters and other crap that people you know send to you all the time. There is a puppy nearly burned alive by mean people. The woman who's dying husband e-mailed her his sperm so that she could have their love child. They are always sappy stories that make me want to puke. One I saw last week talked about sending it within 10 minutes to 10 people that I love - so that they would be aware of my life. (Frankly, if they need an e-mail, maybe I don't really love them all that much!)

Why do we fall for this stuff? Do we want it to be true? Are we that gullible? I've been accused (by my wife) of being cynical. Sometimes I wonder if cynics aren't smarter than other people. After all, cynics are less likely to get sucked into this stuff. Then again, there is an awful lot of this stuff to get sucked into.

I used to forward Internet stuff and e-mail stories. That was in my "Internet youth," when I lacked net maturity. Now that I've grown up on the Internet and become a sophisticated user - I still can't spot them all. But I can often smell the rat. And I've learned where to go to check them out. It helps me not look like a fool. Better yet, it helps me not be played like a fool ... at least not as often.

Want some Internet maturity of your own? Check out some of my favorite sites to investigate the e-mails I receive that sound suspicious, that have been forwarded 20 times or that just seem too stupid to be true.

There are other sites, of course. New ones appear regularly, and some of the old regulars (like disappear. There doesn't seem to be one single authoritative site to check out the Internet hoaxes. I guess that's because there is no end to the misguided, perverse motives of mankind to try and trick, outfox, rip off, cheat, make a fool of and generally degrade, inconvenience and use each other. There's that cynic in me again!

But be sure of this. There are Internet hoaxes stalking you every day. Start educating yourself and get some Internet maturity. You'll be glad you did!

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