by Ira Wilsker
Revised July 6, 1998

Did you hear about the lady at Neiman Marcus who loved the chocolate chip cookies, and asked for the recipe,
and was told it was "two-fifty" so she said fine, and on her monthly charge statement was a $250 charge?

If you open an e-mail with the topic "Join The Crew" it will wipe out your hard drive, according to a variety of

My uncle has a friend at the University of Texas who met a girl at a bar, and she slipped him a mickey. He woke
up in a hotel room in agonizing pain, on a bloody sheet, with a sloppy suture on his left side. He called 911 (a
copy of the tape is available as a wav file on the net for proof), was rushed to the ER, and was told that his
kidney had been stolen! No Joke!

The American Cancer Society (a reputable organization) will get a 50 cent donation for each copy of a fund
raising request forwarded over the Internet.

Bill Gates is spending $1 million to promote Windows 98 via e-mail. He will personally send you $1000 free, if
you are among the first 1000 to pass on his e-mail request, or a free copy of Win 98 if you are after the first
thousand senders.

Never open a returned e-mail message, as it might contain a virus which will certainly wipe out your computer.

If you are one of the millions who use ICQ software, if you send a prepared message to 35 of your friends, you
will get free ICQ service for life, otherwise you will have to pay for each message sent. Also, if you do not
forward a specific ICQ message within the next 48 hours, your access will be revoked.

E-mail the FCC right away and protest the modem tax, or you will have to pay the local and long distance
companies a fee to continue your Internet use. Likewise, the US Government is implementing a tax on each
e-mail message sent, to reimburse it for revenue lost by the post office.

Never respond to a Penpal request, or you will for sure corrupt your files.

If someone calls you on your home phone from the phone company, and asks you to type a #90 on your touch-tone
phone, don't do it, or they will make long distance calls charged to your phone!

Gerber Baby Food company lost a multi-billion dollar class action lawsuit. If you have a child born since 1986,
simply send a certified copy of the birth certificate and social security card to the company, and they will send
you a $500 US Savings bond as your share of a price fixing settlement.

Craig Sherrold is dying of cancer, and wants to be in the Guinness Book of Records, so send him business
cards, post cards, baseball cards, or baseball caps.

Was your Internet connection lost, or did you have trouble connecting to popular web sites starting March 1,
1998. That is because on February 29, 1998, at 12:01 am Zulu, Internet was shut down for several hours for a
cleaning, to remove all of the extraneous files and data fragments floating around the net. If you were connected
to the net at midnight (GMT) on February 29, and did not have your entire hard drive erased you were very lucky
that the cleaning "spider" did not find your computer.

We computer users are too sharp and sophisticated to fall for a classical April Fool's joke, yet we want to be
helpful, and prevent our friends and family from being harmed by some insidious plot, or we want to pass along
a good deed or great deal to our friends. Despite "our" best intentions, "we" just became a victim.

These, and a multitude of other warnings, deals, offers, and other such misinformation abound on the net. The
only problem is that all of the above are FALSE, and fall into the preview of hoaxes and urban legends.

Can a computer user really catch a virus simply by reading an e-mail, or other "innocent" activities? According
to Rob Rosenberger, on his excellent page there have been ZERO known e-mail virii, HTML virii (caught by simply connecting to a web site), Java or Javascript virii, ActiveX virii, virii infecting a
computer's CMOS, BIOS, or video RAM. Despite excellent documentation to the contrary, posts still appear in
news groups, and e-mail messages alleging that "you" can catch a virus that way. There is anecdotal
"evidence" that one of the aforementioned virii "killed my computer - I know it, because my monitor went up in
smoke, and I know I did not have a power surge or lightening strike. I just read an e-mail, and it happened. It had to be an e-mail virus that did it!" To quote the Oscar Mayer commercial, B-O-L-O-G-N-A (baloney - there is a
more appropriate expression, but this is a family publication).

For additional documentation that Email based virii are nearly impossible, the site "The Truth About Computer Email Viruses" at has a detailed explanation of why email based viruses are are a hoax, summed up with, "There is *NO* such thing as an E-mail text virus!! .

As a matter of personal credibility, always check out any claims or warnings before passing them on; in fact, an
almost dead giveaway of a hoax is the "pass it on" request.

Hoaxes and urban legends are easy to check out. Such services as Yahoo have entire directories of reputable
sites that carry the latest news of hoaxes and urban legends. Check out the Yahoo directory at and find the truth
yourself before forwarding such posts. An alternative is to use one of the popular search engines such as
Lycos, Excite, Dogpile, Dejavue, or Altavista, and search for the virus, claim or allegation made in the post.

There are some exceptionally good sites on the net warning about hoaxes. One of the best sites is "CIAC
Internet Hoaxes" at

A companion site warns about "Internet Chain Letters" at

"Computer Virus Myths (and hoaxes and urban legends)" has a very good home page .

Their alphabetical list of almost all known hoaxes, and urban legends is at .
Other great pages are "Urban Legends" at and "Don't Spread that HOAX" at .

Another site with a variety of urban legends is URBAN LEGENDS AND FOLKLORE by the Mining Company at . They have a list of some of the more common legends floating around at, and some of the more bizarre and unusual ones at . Their library of Urban Legend links is at

The International Computer Security Association, a leading provider of computer security services has a site listing "Alerts And Hoaxes" information at

An online magazine, INTERNET SCAM BUSTERS , recently published an article on some of the better soundin online hoaxes. You can read the full text of the article at .
Internet users can get a FREE online subscription at the INTERNET SCAM BUSTERS WEBSITE, .

Almost all of the anti-virus software publishers have sections about popular hoaxes. Datafellows, publisher of
the popular F-PROT anti virus software has an excellent page kept up to date with the latest new about hoaxes

Norton Antivirus has a frequently updated list of hoaxes on its site at

McAfee's hoax site is at .

Many ISPs have sections of their web sites set up to help their subscribers deal with hoaxes. A good example
is at .

Mirabilis, the publisher of ICQ, has a webpage listing related rumors, hoaxes and chain letters at . Other good ICQ related hoax pages are at and

Before forwarding any message that is either a warning, or sounds too good to be true, think about it first. We
all take pride in our credibility, and that is what makes us believable to others. Do not risk your credibility by
simply passing on whatever happens to be posted on the net. Some people lie, period. Some get their jollies by getting others to react to a good sounding hoax; don't fall for it. A nefarious individual might also use a hoax to
letter bomb a target, putting a server out of commission, or possibly use a hoax for criminal activities, as has
been alleged by some with the "Gerber $500 Bond" hoax (the criminal allegations of identity theft might be a
hoax about a hoax!).

Follow good "netiquette" and check out any allegations or claims before reacting to the senders' requests. This
will help make the net better for all of us.

May 15, 1998

ZD Net, the online version of the reputable Ziff Davis computer magazine publishing empire, has posted a warning about a novel method of spreading virii via the net!. While it still is virtually impossible to catch a virus by simply reading email, this new nefarious scheme is an email with a virus warning from an apparently reputable source. The warning contains an attachment (executable file) that is supposed to prevent or kill the virus; instead, the attachment contains a virus, and can attach the executable file to the names in your address book! Sound unbelievable? Check out the details at the ZDNet website at:,2073,2103935-2103621,00.html .

There is a Virus Bulletin website at . It contains the latest virus news, as well as and comparisons of the anti virus software.

Ira Wilsker is an Instructor at Lamar University Institute of Technology, and a police officer.  He has been teaching internet classes for several years at the Institute, as well as for federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies and fire departments around the US.  He currently has over 60 websites in operation, the main one being LAW ENFORCEMENT SITES ON THE WEB.

HTML Version 1.9, July 6, 1998.  Send comments to:  Ira Wilsker,