Busting Mail Tales


According to About.com, be skeptical of e-mail that contains:

  • Language such as “Forward this to everyone you know” or “This is not a hoax.”
  • Text not written by the person who sent it to you.
  • Persuasive rather than informative language.
  • Extremely important information that you’ve never heard in legitimate venues or that cannot be verified independently.
  • Inconsistencies and wild claims.


    If you want to investigate a suspicious mailing, check these websites:


    Do you remember that story about a the Budweiser truck driver who, upon seeing two Middle Eastern store owners celebrating the World Trade Center attacks, removed all his company’s beer from the store?

    Not true. In fact, hundreds of myths pour into e-mail inboxes concerning not only the Sept. 11 attacks, but just about anything else you can imagine. Some of the most common concern great investment opportunities, dying children, free money or gift certificates, oppressive legislation, computer viruses murky rumors of government corruption and conspiracy theories.

    Barbara Mikkelson, who runs the myth-debunking www.Snopes.com with her husband Richard, says people, especially online novices, forward such e-mails with good intentions. “When it arrives typed out, it comes with a sense of authority,” she says. “Newcomers forward it on to their friends, thinking they’re going to save the world.”

    Mikkelson says truckers should be particularly aware of Internet myths because they have often been the subjects of urban legends. “They show up in all sorts of things, like the headlight flasher murderer. The story says that truckers drive around with their lights off, and when you flash them, they turn around and shoot you.”

    Other familiar trucker legends include a story about a family picnicking on the side of the road; they don’t realize they’re in the middle of a truck breakaway turnout until it’s too late. Truckers also play a role in many versions of the classic urban legend – the vanishing hitchhiker.

    Not all e-mail fabrications are harmless. Pyramid schemes, fraudulent business opportunities and stock scams have found a home on the Internet. Hear the story about the kid who sent out a fake press release, then made thousands of dollars as duped investors bought his stock? That one’s true, and it shows that e-mail users should be skeptical.

    Even when e-mail hoaxes are harmless, forwarding them can have unintended consequences. First, unnecessary e-mail clogs the system, slowing the speed of the Net. Second, they often contain the e-mail addresses of many individuals, which leads to privacy concerns. And third, forcing recipients to deal with junk e-mail steals their time and productivity.

    So think twice before you forward any e-mail. “If there’s a product or company being touted in the email, go to their website and check it out,” Mikkelson says. Or phone the source – if, indeed, you can find a phone number and verify the information. As with any claim, if it sounds too amazing to be true, it probably is.