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Evaluating Authority - Email

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Caliifornia State University, Dominguez Hills
University of Wisconsin, Parkside
Created: July 6, 1999
Latest Update: March 29, 2004

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Index of Topics on Site Detecting Hoax E-Mail

Site Copyright: Jeanne Curran and Susan R. Takata and Individual Authors, March 2004.
"Fair use" encouraged.

Evaluating Information University of North Carolina Library Site. Click on Email Hoaxes to get specific information on email. On page 5 of the email section you'll find the email hoax I received today, which caused me to update this file. For the page link, scroll to the bottom of any page of the email section. Link checked March 29, 2004.

Also note:
The Urban Legends Site Link checked March 29, 2004. This site lists lots of the rumors that float around the Internet. Amusing, but don't spend to long with it. I prefer that you learn to evaluate the new ones coming in. jeanne


  • Charge for Long Distance E-Mail
  • Peritoneal Cancer E-Mail
  • Little Six-Year Old with Cancer E-Mail
  • Barbara's Tales of the Wooden Spoon: Faxlore/Netlore Reviews of hoax e-mail. Link added July 6, 1999.

    Evaluating Authority - E-Mail on Charging for Long Distance E-Mail

    The E-Mail Itself

    This e-mail was went out to our whole campus on Monday, June 28, 1999. This was just one of many I received that and the previous week.

    "Important message
    please read this and forward it to everyone on your email list.

    CNN reported that in the next two weeks, Congress is going to vote on allowing telephone companies to charge for Internet access. That means, every time we send a long distance e-mail we will receive a long-distance charge. This will get costly. Please visit the following web site AND complain. Complain to your Congressman. Don't allow this to pass.

    (An URL was provided for form responses to Congress.)

    Pass this on to your friends. It is urgent! All of us have an interest in this one. PLEASE FORWARD TO EVERYONE YOU KNOW TODAY BEFORE IT IS TOO LATE!!!"

    Some Things That Might Alert You That This is a Hoax:

    First, the person that sent it to you may be completely sincere, a victim of the hoax herself. So, ascribe innocence, at least at that level.

    Second, the use of the word URGENT always sets me to verifying information. That reaction is intensified by phrases like "BEFORE IT IS TOO LATE!!!"

    Check with knowledgeable sources (informed respondents).

    • Check with ACLU
      Hoaxes are like spam and interfere with freedom of speech.
    • Check with The Electronic Frontier Foundation Site Map
      In the search box in the top of the right-hand column, enter the search words: email hoax, then press GO.
    • Check with news services online:5 Cent E-mail Tax
      Now it's called a tax, and it's a flat 5 cents. Watch for inconsistencies like this.
      This article is particularly good at pointing out the inconsistencies, and telling you that the inconsistencies are what lead to the conclusion that "[t]his has to be bogus." They refer to an editorial that does not exist, to a law firm that does not exist, to the impossible number assigned to the alleged bill, and to a lawyer that does not exist; and then compare this to an old hoax on a modem tax, and refer you to a site where you can get full information on this hoax: E-Mail Hoax.
    • Check with organizations mentioned in the reported action: U.S. Postal Service
      Note that in this case the postal service, not the telephone companies, was implicated. This is another clue that the e-mail is suspicious: inconsistency from one version to the next.
    • Check the search engines: Northern Lights Search EngineAlso links rumor to U.S.Postal Service.
    • Check with news services: The Toronot Sun Identifies rumor also with Postal Service, but now it is Canadian Postal Service.

    Evaluating Authority - E-Mail on Wish of a 6-Yr-Old<

    On November 23, Jeanne received an e-mail describing the dearest wish of a six-year-old girl dying of cancer. The e-mail asked that we forward it to everyone we could, because the American Cancer Society would donate 3 cents for every such contact. It cited some bible verses, and then gave the name, phone, and fax no. of a doctor in New York.

    Now, how can we tell this as a crank e-mail?

    1. This is chain mail. Usually not a good idea to mess with chain mail.

    2. There was a chiding tone to the message.

      " . . . if you're too selfish to take 10-15 minutes scrolling this and forwarding it to EVERYONE, then you are one sick person. Just think it could be you one day. It's not even your money, just your time!"

    3. There was a promise of money to someone.

      "By you sending this to as many people as possible, you can give her and her family a little hope, because with every name that this is sent to, The American Cancer Society will donate 3 cents per name to her treatment and recovery plan."

      sent to where??? and how will the American Cancer Society know? Are there cookies involved tracing machines which respond?

    4. There is an actual number and address given, but with no legitimation of the connection. Beware of dirty tricks being played.


      Dr. Dennis Shields
      Department of Developmental and Molecular Biology
      Albert Einstein College of Medicine of Yeshiva University
      1300 Morris Park Avenue
      Bronx, New York 10461
      Phone 718-xxx-xxxx (I have erased the phone number so as to eliminate unneccessary calls to Dr. Dennis Shields, who is apparently a real person. Fax 718-xxx-xxxx (ditto)"

      "Philipians 4:13--For I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me."

    5. All this is enough to send me to the American Cancer Society's Site, where I can link through News Today to Top Stories, and will find under fraud the e-mail in question.

    Such childish, and sometimes not-so-childish pranks are damaging to the Internet and e-mail communication. They cause us not to trust at the very moment when governance of the Internet is a major social issue. Do not be a party to such tricks and unethical dealings. Protect the "global social space" we are building together. Make it free, and make it honest and ethical. jeanne

    The Peritoneal Cancer E-Mail

    American Cancer Society Site External Site

    There are some causes for concern in the Peritoneal Cancer E-Mail.

    1. We are urged to send this e-mail widely. But one must note that women have long used word of mouth (or e-mail) to communicate messages for which there was otherwise no forum.

    2. One factor that supports the validity of the e-mail is the author's statement of our need to take personal responsibility for our own health. No collections, no unconnected person's phone numbers, just a warning to take personal responsibility.

    3. In any case we must check the authenticity of the information. On the American Cancer Society search engine, look for "CA 125." You will find two articles that cite the test and the precautions that we are told by this e-mail to take. "Peritoneal cancer" will yield 4 articles. Now you have some support for the authenticity of the e-mail and the information.

  • American Cancer Society