Skip to main content

Look first, then tell the world

With some regularity I get sent emails about scams, viruses and strange things that Facebook is going to do. Almost always these are accompanied by a request to pass them on the world and its aunty. And there's the thing. Because almost always these dire warnings (some of them very dire) are themselves a form of virus. What they describe is totally fictional, a hoax that by panicking people into spreading the word, reproduces and travels the world. It is this 'chain letter' effect that is, in fact, the awful payload.

Whenever I get these warning emails and Facebook messages my first step is to pop over to Snopes (thanks to Andy Grüneberg for introducing this to me many years ago). Snopes is primarily a way of checking out urban myths, but most of the time these spoof warnings also get a write-up.

So, for instance, I recently got an email from someone, asking me to pass on to everyone I know a warning about cards being left by Parcel Delivery Service. Anyone who rang up to have their parcel redirected got landed with a bill of £315 for making a phone call to a premium rate number. There was, of course, no parcel. This warning is vastly out of date. The scam did exist - but the bill was £9 not £315. More to the point, the number being warned about was deactivated in 2005. It was a real problem (and may well still be with a different name and number) - but the specific warning doing the rounds in 2012 was 7 years out of date. It was a ghost warning, a Flying Dutchman of a warning.

I was also warned about a virus that showed a happy smiling Gordon Brown (okay, that's weird, I admit). PLEASE INFORM EVERYONE said the much copied message. Open the attachment with Gordon's pic and your PC will be trashed by an 'Olympic Torch' that burns your whole hard disc. Don't get me wrong. Viruses exist and can do damage. But whenever you get an email or Facebook message it's worth checking, because chances are that these 'Pass it on to everyone' messages are fakes.

When I've established it's a fake there's the difficult decision. It's not to bad if the warning was simply a Facebook post. You can just add a comment. But it's harder when someone has just sent the warning to everyone in their address book. Do you point out it's a spoof? Probably you should, as really they should be warning all their friends not to pass on this message. But it always seems a bit mean.

So here's the thing. Next time you hear about a terrible email that will make your computer explode if you open it, or the latest phone scam, or Facebook's latest outrageous terms and conditions, pop over to Snopes first (another good source is Hoax Slayer) pop in a few keywords and check it out. You could save yourself time and embarrassment.

Comments

  1. The Facebook viruses are a variant of the old Norwegian Computer virus:

    Ve haf yust sent you da "NORVEGIAN VIRUS". Since ve do not haf any programming experience and do not know how to actually damage your computer, dis Virus verks on da honor system.

    Please forward dis Virus to eferyvone on your mailing list and den manually delete all of da files on your hard drive.

    ReplyDelete

Post a Comment

Popular posts from this blog

Is 5x3 the same as 3x5?

The Internet has gone mildly bonkers over a child in America who was marked down in a test because when asked to work out 5x3 by repeated addition he/she used 5+5+5 instead of 3+3+3+3+3. Those who support the teacher say that 5x3 means 'five lots of 3' where the complainants say that 'times' is commutative (reversible) so the distinction is meaningless as 5x3 and 3x5 are indistinguishable. It's certainly true that not all mathematical operations are commutative. I think we are all comfortable that 5-3 is not the same as 3-5.  However. This not true of multiplication (of numbers). And so if there is to be any distinction, it has to be in the use of English to interpret the 'x' sign. Unfortunately, even here there is no logical way of coming up with a definitive answer. I suspect most primary school teachers would expands 'times' as 'lots of' as mentioned above. So we get 5 x 3 as '5 lots of 3'. Unfortunately that only wor

Why I hate opera

If I'm honest, the title of this post is an exaggeration to make a point. I don't really hate opera. There are a couple of operas - notably Monteverdi's Incoranazione di Poppea and Purcell's Dido & Aeneas - that I quite like. But what I do find truly sickening is the reverence with which opera is treated, as if it were some particularly great art form. Nowhere was this more obvious than in ITV's recent gut-wrenchingly awful series Pop Star to Opera Star , where the likes of Alan Tichmarsh treated the real opera singers as if they were fragile pieces on Antiques Roadshow, and the music as if it were a gift of the gods. In my opinion - and I know not everyone agrees - opera is: Mediocre music Melodramatic plots Amateurishly hammy acting A forced and unpleasant singing style Ridiculously over-supported by public funds I won't even bother to go into any detail on the plots and the acting - this is just self-evident. But the other aspects need some ex

Which idiot came up with percentage-based gradient signs

Rant warning: the contents of this post could sound like something produced by UKIP. I wish to make it clear that I do not in any way support or endorse that political party. In fact it gives me the creeps. Once upon a time, the signs for a steep hill on British roads displayed the gradient in a simple, easy-to-understand form. If the hill went up, say, one yard for every three yards forward it said '1 in 3'. Then some bureaucrat came along and decided that it would be a good idea to state the slope as a percentage. So now the sign for (say) a 1 in 10 slope says 10% (I think). That 'I think' is because the percentage-based slope is so unnatural. There are two ways we conventionally measure slopes. Either on X/Y coordiates (as in 1 in 4) or using degrees - say at a 15° angle. We don't measure them in percentages. It's easy to visualize a 1 in 3 slope, or a 30 degree angle. Much less obvious what a 33.333 recurring percent slope is. And what's a 100% slope