As times become worse, people become more desperate, and as people become more desperate, hoaxes abound. A sad fact of human nature is that falling upon hard times seems to lower skepticism. How many people out there are falling for “money for nothing” scams? Have you ever wondered why your inbox is flooded with emails that begin like this (from this site):
I am Maj. Osogaeme Ugba, a senior assistant leader of the Revolutionary United Front of Sierra Leone know as (R.U.F). With me is also (Sergeant) Badou Fall.
A few weeks ago we decided and made away with large quantity of (diamond) weighing 2.98kg which have been saved and deposited in a high security company before boarding for Dakar Senegal, where we have decided to stay temporarily and decide on what to do with those great resources which is our hope of life.
We got your contact from the internet and decided to contact you as an honest and trustworthy able businessman whom we can trust and transact business with.
Only the most gullible types would fall for something like this email…we hope. But hoaxes can extend far beyond silly emails from Nigerian warlords. Each of us have received “phishing” emails telling us our account with Bank X has a security problem – could we please click the link and reconfirm our social security number? And who hasn’t received an email from a friend, cc’ing everyone they know with subjects like this:
JUST A REMINDER… 31 days from today, cell phone numbers are being released to telemarketing companies and you will start to receive sales calls. YOU WILL BE CHARGED FOR THESE CALLS…
To prevent this, call the following number from your cell phone: 888-382-1222. It is the national DO NOT CALL list. It will only take a minute of your time. It blocks your number for five (5) years.
PASS THIS ON TO ALL YOUR FRIENDS
So if you want to check out a hoax, where do you go?
Snopes is the best site I’ve found for researching hoaxes. Every stupid email you’ve ever received is probably here. I’ve used this site again and again to smack down emails sent to me warning of viruses beamed through the television or diseases contained in milk cartons with the letter K on them. Before you forward that email on to your friends and family – or panic about failing to report for jury duty – check here. You’ll thank me for it.
The SEC is best known for failing to detect corporate fraud before it happens, but they also have a number of resources for identifying and avoiding internet scams. For example:
3. The Secret Service
It’s easy to forget because of their high-profile duty to protect the President and other politicians, but the Secret Service is actually part of the Treasury Department. They have valuable information on avoiding.
About.com has an “urban legends” page in a blog format here.. Wondering about that personal loyalty oath that the military has to swear directly to Obama, rather than the Constitution? Check it out
5. Anti-Phishing browsers
One of the easiest ways to avoid a hoax website is to use a browser with anti-phishing features. Both Internet Explorer 7 and Mozilla’s Firefox block phishing sites (if you use Firefox, you can even quickly check to verify your anti-phishing capabilities are working by clicking ).
Resources abound on the Internet to check out a hoax, but scammers get more and more clever as internet users become more careful. The simplest rule of all is that you shouldn’t believe everything you read, but a few other important points need to be made:
- Wikipedia is NOT an infallible source of information. It can be scammed, too, and since it’s constantly changing the information can’t be considered a definitive reference.
- You can always avoid a phishing website by typing in the website yourself. Don’t ever click through on links sent in email. Type in the website manually and you’re assured of getting to the “real” site (just make sure you don’t misstype).
- Don’t forward emails until YOU check them out. These scams can’t take on a life of their own without gullible people forwarding them without a second’s consideration.
- If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. It’s sad to say, but far too many people have had this saying go in one ear and out the other. If it sounds too good to be true, be skeptical!
Checking out a hoax is easy, and it’s one of the simplest ways to protect your money in tough times.