Email Message Hoaxes – Don’t Be Afraid

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Many of you, my co-workers have forwarded me email message “alerts” these past few weeks which always refer to a reliable person “in fedexthe know” who has information about a major virus on the horizon. These messages can almost always be ignored. The email message you received from the “reliable source” asking you to forward it on is the “virus” itself. We will talk about these messages in more detail during next week’s IT classes.

Here is some more detail about the history of these types of email “hoaxes”.

Email hoaxes are nothing new, dating back at least as far as 1994 with what is widely believed to have been the first email hoax—referred to as the “Goodtimes virus” or the “Goodtimes virus hoax” after the subject of the email. The message in the early version was short and to the point, advising recipients not to open email messages with the subject “Good Times” because doing so would ruin their files. This, of course, was not true, but in cases where the recipient complied with the warning, it obviously had the effect of ruining their chances of actually reading any legitimate email messages with that very subject.

Before email, normal postal mail (known fondly by many as “snail-mail”) chain-letter hoaxes regularly did the rounds, and sometimes still do even today. The difference between a simple hoax and a chain-letter hoax is that the latter encourages the recipient to forward the letter or email on to others, usually family and friends. Sometimes the hoax email claims that something good will happen to the sender if they send the letter on to at least 5 or 10 or 15 or 20 people, whereas others take the darker path of sternly informing the recipient that failing to forward the message to others will result in something bad happening. This could be illness, loss of income, the sky falling, or whatever the case may be (insert evil consequence here). Of course, both the “carrot” and the “stick” versions prey on people’s natural desires for good things to happen in their lives, and their equally natural desire to prevent or avoid “bad luck.” I’m sure most people don’t truly believe that something bad will result if they fail to forward the message, but many people are superstitious and probably take the view, “Well, it can’t hurt, so just in case…”

A minor variation of one particular hoax that dates back to at least 2006 (and possibly before) has recently resurfaced and is scaring people once again. The email looks like this:

FYI  TO ALL.
            Dave's brother is a very advanced  programmer who does  
computer work for a living and  has a high up status with Microsoft.  He  
  doesn't send these if they aren't real.   If  he  says this is for  
real, it for sure is.   Be  aware.
           VIRUS  COMING ! 

          Hi  All, 
          I  checked with Norton Anti-Virus, and they are  gearing up  
for this  virus! 

          I  checked Snopes, and it is for real. Get this  E-mail  
message sent around to your contacts  ASAP. 
          PLEASE  FORWARD THIS WARNING AMONG FRIENDS, FAMILY AND   
CONTACTS! 

          You  should be alert during the next few days. Do not  open  
any message with an attachment entitled  'POSTCARD FROM  
HALLMARK,'regardless of who sent it  to you. It is a virus which opens A  
POSTCARD  IMAGE, which 'burns' the whole hard disc C of your  computer. 

          This  virus will be received from someone who has your  e-mail  
address in his/her contact list. This is  the reason why you need to  
send this e-mail to all  your contacts. It is better to receive this   
message 25 times than to receive the virus and  open it. 
          If  you receive a mail called' POSTCARD,' even though  sent to  
you by a friend, do not open it! Shut down  your computer immediately.  
This is the worst virus  announced by  CNN. 

          It  has been classified by Microsoft as the most  destructive  
virus ever. This virus was discovered  by McAfee yesterday, and there is  
no repair yet  for this kind of virus. This virus simply destroys  the  
Zero Sector of the Hard Disc, where the vital  information is  kept. 
          COPY  THIS E-MAIL, AND SEND IT TO YOUR  FRIENDS. 

          REMEMBER:  IF YOU SEND IT TO THEM, YOU WILL BENEFIT ALL OF  US 

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