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Is This Email Story for Real?

How Smart Users Identify Online Hoaxes and Urban Legends


Is This Email Story for Real?

October, 2013

Bonsai-grown kittens. 800-lb Razorback Hogs. Mel Gibson was mutilated as a teenager. Swiffer Wet Jet poisons dogs. People's kidneys are stolen, and then the victims are left in bathtubs of ice. Flashing your highbeams could mark you for gang assasination. Proctor and Gamble finances the Church of Satan. Tommy Hilfiger is a racist. Snakehead fish can walk on land and eat small children. Penis-shrinking sorcerers are terrorizing West Africa. Neiman Marcus cookie recipes are secretly available. Microsoft will pay $400 if you forward a specific email to twenty people. Starbucks refuses to support US troops. African expatriates want to transfer $4.5 million to your personal account.

Do any of these email stories sound familiar? Do you receive these outlandish photos and yarns in your mailbox? Do you immediately forward them to your friends?

As compelling as these amazing stories are, they are all fiction. Creative pranksters conjure these stories, naive readers believe them, and then those same naive readers forward these hoax emails around the Internet, embarassing themselves in the process.

If you are aware of their fiction, these myth and hoax stories can be truly fun to read. But sadly, many readers actually believe these email hoaxes, and forward them unwittingly. This causes damage to legitimate manufacturers, blemishes people's good names, and sows unfounded fear in consumers.

Don't get suckered by these compelling hoax emails! Enjoy them, laugh and shake your head when you receive them, but do show maturity and balance before you forward them to your friends.

Here is your guide to identifying, confirming, and responding to suspicious stories in your mailbox:

Part 2: How To Identify a Hoax Email Story

Part 3: How To Report a Hoax Email

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