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One Small Effort to Turn the Tide of Cyberjunk


There are so many false stories, fraudulent claims, exaggerated news, chain letters, internet rumor, and other urban legends circulating through cyberspace, that one must wonder what can you really believe? This page is one small attempt to provide a resource for people trying to verify claims, rumors, etc... I will try to leave everything on one page, so that users can copy the entire catalogue of information for off-line review.

Whenever possible, I will cite the exact source of my counterclaim or pronouncements of falsehood. One cyberjunk filter you can use is to disregard any message which does not specifically state its source of verifiable veracity. Urban legends are notorious for claiming that some anonymous friend heard the story on some talk show or news program without a specific date for example. The CIAC has a great site devoted to debunking hoaxes and helps you figure out how to detect them.

Virus warnings are perhaps one of the biggest sources of cyberjunk. Keep in mind that you cannot get a computer virus by simply reading an email message ! Most virus warning circulating the Internet are simply false regardless. You can access several official virus alert sites . In general, if you believe you have discovered a legitimate Internet virus, send the message to your Internet Service Provider before inundating your friends: your ISP should have the ability to verify the virus's existence. Rob Rosenberger , a computer security expert, has developed an authoratative site on hoax and mythological computer viruses .

Above all, remember that if you are not sure of some email tale, do not send it to 20 other friends who will then shoot it off to 20 of their friends! Verify first! Err on the side of inaction not further cyberjunk. Finally, remember that most Internet Service Providers frown upon the distribution of chain letters since they generate overwhelming volumes of e-traffic; such activity is often justifiable cause for cancelling your account!!! In the United States, it is expressly illegal to circulate chain letters under various conditions (regulated by the United States Postal Service).

As the Ineternet continues to grow and mature, many other scourges have scorched the internet - from spybots to virulent pop-up adds to keystroke recorders to persistent security holes in Microsoft software products. Some of my favorite counter- measures include using a non-Microsoft browser (like Mozilla's Firefox ), Ad-aware , and Spybot S&D (Search and Destroy). PCWorld has a great catalogue of other pop-up and ad blockers .

For other interesting reading check how to fight and deal with spamming (unwelcome or unsolicited email).

Last updated July 4, 2004. (Stopped updating catalogue of cyberjunk in 2000 since there are many other sites that are doing a much better job than I could ever do!)

Now, for the tales of cyberjunk!!!

Chain Letters (including alleged requests for help and donation programs for spreading cyberjunk)

  1. If you INSIST on sending chain letters, send this one, and make it your last!
  2. If your friends insist on sending you chain letters, send this one in response!
  3. Benefits for the American Cancer Society
  4. U.S. Department of Energy CIAC Advisory on Various Internet Chain Letter Hoaxes (includes general information, like how to recognize a chain letter)

False or Exaggerated News and Fraudulent Claims

  1. *The U.S. Postal Service is NOT getting rid of its Black Heritage stamp series
  2. FDA Warning on Viral Bananas from Costa Rica. "Validated by the CDC"
  3. CompUSA: Rumors about racist comments on BET and prejudiced marketing tactics
  4. Gerber Rumors of a Nationwide Product Liability Settlement
  5. The Hilfiger Rumors
  6. Kurt Vonnegut's alleged 1997 MIT Commencement Speech
  7. The Voting Rights Act of 1965
  8. Windows 98 urban legend (link to article on claim that Microsoft can detect an illegal copy of Win 98 on your computer whenever you log onto to the Internet.)

Virus Alerts

  1. List of Various Resources for finding out viral truths...

Chain Letters

1. The Last Chain Letter
If you MUST continue to send chain letters, try sending this one...
You have been sent a blessing. Those who have followed the instructions on this letter have received good fortune, as you will. The rewards of this letter supercede the promises of all other letters you may have received. This is the final chain-letter you will ever send. It's instructions are simple, to receive the fortune that has graced those who have received this before you follow these steps. The grace that re-creates
1. Make nine unaltered copies of this note, and send each copy to a friend or stranger within nine days of receiving this. This completed, you will have received not only luck and positive karma, but you have been PERMANENTLY released from the obligation to send another chain-letter.
* The snake that eats its own tail..
2. Never heed another chain-letter. By sending this letter you have already incurred the fortune promised by all future letters you we receive. Ignore or destroy all future chain-letters that you come in contact with.
To send another chain-letter is to break the gift giving you by this. If you have already received and sent this letter, and you are receiving it again, destroy this copy.
This letter will circle the globe, freeing its recipients from the need to send future chain-letters, and, its task completed, will eventually destroy itself in the same manner.
Not sending this letter curses you with ill-fortune that is the dark mirror of the good fortune you could have received. To ignore this letter is to receive the bad luck or ill-fortune mentioned in all future chain letters you will receive.
Only those who follow the instructions above will receive the double blessing of luck and freedom from all future chain-letters.
Just as sending it blessed you with the luck of all chain letters, not sending it curses you with the misfortune.. Sending another chain letter after this one brings the same misfortune as well.
This is the world's final chain-letter.
2. Official Chain Letter Counter-Attack
Here's the Official bOING bOING Broken Chain Letter (created by Mark Frauenfelder). Send this in response to any chain letters you recieve. Don't forget to send it to EVERY rube on the list.
clip and save clip and save clip and save -----------------------------------------------------------------------
This message has been e-mailed to you for no good reason. The original sender has been hunted down and executed. It has been sent back and forth to the same superstitious dorks for about 20 years. This stupid piece of trash has now been e-mailed to you. You will spread the boredom within seconds of receiving this message - provided you, in turn, e-mail it on.
This is no joke. Not even I, the sender, am amused. You will gets lots of angry e-mail in return, but no money. Send copies to people you think are as stupid as you are. E-mail your credit card number and expiration date to as many people as you can. Don't send money as it will clog up your Net connection. Do not keep this message. This message must leave your hard drive in 96 hours.
* A United States Crack Dealer received $470,000 Dollars.
* Another Man received $40,000 Dollars and lost it because he couldn't find it.
* In the Philippines, Gene Welch lost his wife 51 days after receiving the message. He failed to circulate the message. However, before his death, he received 7,555,000 new wives.
Please e-mail twenty copies to Canter & Seigel and see what happens in four days. The chain comes from Venezuela and was written by Saul De Groda, a plumber from Cleveland. He has been hunted down and executed. Since the copy must tour the Net, you must make twenty copies and e-mail them to friends and associates. After a few days you'll get a flood of angry responses. Nothing is true, even if you are superstitious. Do note the following:
* Constantine Dias received this chain in 1958, several years before it was created. He asked his boss to make twenty copies and send them out. He was fired and became a prostitute. A few days later he won two dollars in the lottery.
* Carlos Daditt, an office droid, received the message and forgot that it had to leave his hard disk in 96 hours. He lost about 20KBytes of storage space. Later, after finding the message again, he erased it from his hard drive. A few days later he was fired and went into business with Constantine.
* Dalan Fairchild received the message and, not believing, deleted it. Nine days later he choked to death on a ham sandwich while watching the "Space Madness" episode of Ren & Stimpy.
* In 1987, the message received by a young woman in California was full of garbage characters due to line noise, and was barely readable. She promised herself that she would retype the message and e-mail it on, but she set it aside to do volunteer work at an orphange. She was plagued with various problems, including being beaten up by the kids at the orphanage. The e-mail did not leave her hands within 96 hours. She finally typed the letter as promised and was beaten so severly by the children that she was hospitalized for 18 months.
So, Good Luck, but please remember: 20 copies of this message MUST leave your computer in 96 hours... You must not sign off on this message... YOU'VE BEEN WARNED!
The ACS is a clearinghouse for information about cancer and receives contributions to support its non-profit work to increase cancer awareness in the U.S. and to support cancer research. There are numerous chain letters masquerading as aid vehicles for the American Cancer Society. I have confirmed with the Northern California chapter that they have no such internet drives and no longer have the email address acs@aol.com. Cancer is a serious affliction. Let's not trivialize the real suffering of millions of people by perpetrating these false claims! Examples include a "Tickle Me Elmo" chain letter, "Jessica Mydek" (the dying little girl), and the following false story below...
" ok you guys....This isn't a chain letter, but a choice for all of us to save a little girl who is dying of a serious and fatal form of cancer. Please send this to everyone you know or don't know for that matter. This little girl has 6 months left to live her life, and as her dying wish, she wanted to send a chain letter telling eveyone to live their life to the fullest, since she never will. She'll never make it to the prom, graduate from high school, or get married and have a life of her own. But by sending this to as many people as possible, you can give her and her family a little hope, because with every name that is sent to, the American Cancer Society will donate 3 cents per name to her treatment and recovery plan. One guy sent this to 500 people!!! So, i know that we can send at least 5 or 6. Come on guys, and if you're too freaking selfish to waste 10-15 minutes and scrolling and sending this to EVERYONE, you're a sick person and another thing to think about, it could be you someday. This isn't even your $money$, just your time. Do this for that little girl that is depending on you! Thanks."

False or Exaggerated News and Fraudulent Claims

Viral Costa Rican Bananas: FDA warns public about highly infectious virus infecting bananas from Costa Rica (June, 2000)
The CDC has a page debunking this rumor . The CDC denies that any government warning has been issued or even that such a virus even exists.
CompUSA: Rumors about racist comments on BET and prejudiced marketing tactics (Sept, 1999)
I recently got an email claiming that an executive from CompUSA wrote to Tom Joyner (and/or Tavis Smiley) of BET to defend his company's alleged policy not to market to African-Americans. He was alleged to have also used offensive stereotypes. The author of this message called for a boycott while claiming that Smiley and Joyner were asking all Black consumers to send CompUSA receipts to BET to demonstrate the community's buying power. I contacted CompUSA via email, and their customer service promptly called back to confirm that such a letter was never sent. In fact, Smiley also debunked the whole rumor on Joyner's show as soon as this latest internet hoax became widely known in late September of 1999. The executive named in the letter does not even exist at CompUSA.
Gerber Products Company Statement on False Rumors of Cash Payments in Baby Food Settlements
DO NOT send a copy of your birth certificate and social security number to ANYONE. In many cases this is enough information (recall the birth certificate likely has your mother's maiden name on it) to gain secured access to accounts and other sensitive, personal information.
Check out the press release from Gerber disassociating themselves from the Net rumor that claims they are giving out money to comply with a liability settlement. They are NOT asking to for social security info or birth records, and do not have any post office box for this purpose.
You cn chck out the Gerber site or call (612) 359-2064 for more information on this.
Here is a copy of the FALSE claim circulating on the Internet:
FYI: Reported last week
Gerber Baby Food lost a class action suit against them. Gerber had been marketing their baby food as "all natural", in fact it was found to contain preservatives. In this settlement, Gerber Food is now responsible for giving every child born between 1985 and 1997(under the age of 12), a $500.00 savings bond. Gerber, however is not responsible for contacting or advertising this settlement in any way. If you have or know of someone who has a child under the age of 12, please pass this information along.
To obtain the bond, send a copy of the child's birth certificate and social security number to:
Gerber Food
Settlement Administration
Infant Litigation
PO Box 1602
Minneapolis, MN 55480
Hilfiger Alleged to be Racist
The rumour that maker of clothing so popular amongst urban youth appears to be false. I do not have a copy of the original claim, but you can check out the counterstory from the Salt Lake Tribune (Feb 25, 1996): "AS DESIGNER PREDICTED, HILFIGER IS LEADING WAY IN MEN'S FASHION" by Roy H. Campbell (I cannot reprint the story here due to copyright restrictions).
Kurt Vonnegut's MIT Commencemt Speech actually written by Mary Schmich of the Chicago Tribune
An MIT commencement speech has circulated the internet, the alleged author being Kurt Vonnegut. In actuality, it was a humorous column about graduation written by Mary Schmich of the Chicago Tribune on June 1, 1997. Click here to read the real story and a chronicle of how a column became a miscredited internet legend.
Voting Rights Act of 1965 expires in 2007, but that's not the full story...
Over and over a message circulates the Internet claiming that the rights of Black people will expire with the expiration of the Voting Rights Act in 2007. However, the 15th Amendment guarantees the rights of ALL *male* American citizens to vote regardless of race. (Woman's suffrage came with the 19th Amendment). The NAACP explains the real deal about the expiration date of the Voting Rights Act and summarizes its purpose . The Academic American Encyclopedia contains the full text of the Voting Rights Act . You can also read an official statement from the Department of Justice.

Virus Alerts

Check out the following sites to find all about the latest real and hoax viruses.
  1. National Computer Security Association (NCSA Virus Lab)
  2. Rob Rosenberg's Computer Virus Myths and Hoaxes
  3. U.S. Department of Energy: Computer Incident Advisory Capability (Internet Hoaxes)
  4. Yahoo: Computers and Internet:Security and Encryption:Viruses (an extensive listing of sites for more information, includes the above-listed sites).