This page deals with Email Hoaxes, Spam, Virus Hoaxes, and Browsing Rope-a-Dopes

Hard to believe, but there are people who spend their entire day dreaming up ways to take advantage of us unsuspecting Internet surfers. Computer (Email) Viruses and Spyware are addressed on other PC Voyage web pages, and this page deals with these Internet related scams:

Using Email Address Lists
When you get to the point of using Mailing Lists, or sending a message to "Everyone' (all of your Email contacts), you have certain responsibilities to protect your friends' email addresses. If you put the List in the 'To:' field when you compose or forward a message, those addresses are there for the world to see. Many people do not like the whole world knowing their email address. (After all, when you send out greeting cards during the holidays, do you include the mailing addresses of everyone one the outside of each envelop?) Spammers, for example, are always looking for a
forwarded email message that is loaded with addresses, and it is easier than you think for that list to get into the hands of a spammer. Virus programs are very fond of address books, too.
So, how to get around this? It's easy! Simply put the mailing List in the 'BCC' field and never in the 'To' or 'CC' fields. Put your own address in the 'To' field. By doing this, you are protecting the privacy and identity of your friends by not revealing their addresses to everyone else.
Each person in your List will receive a copy of your message (and you will receive a copy, too), but will not see the other addresses. Can you think of other uses for the 'BCC' field? There are others, to be sure.

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Email Forwarding
Have you ever received an Email from an enthusiastic friend who wants you to read the clever message or view the funny picture they are sending? And at the bottom there is an instruction that says,
"Forward this to at least 10 people", or
"Forward this to everyone in your address book".
And then there's the guilt trip: "If you don't send it to anyone, it means you're in a hurry," or "you'll get bad luck if you break the chain."
Well, All of these are originated by spammers who want to collect emails addresses that stack up at the top of the message. Many of the lines in the message begin with '>>>>' symbols, and there might be several "Fwd's" in the Subject line indicating the message has already been forwarded many times.
Often there are blocks of other people's Email addresses. Of course, who hasn't received such a message? We all have. What's important to realize is that the message was originated by someone with the express intent to watch it spread (exponentially) around the country or the world. Imagine if everyone sent the same Email to 10 people! In just a couple of days, that would multiply into tens of millions. The trick is not to succumb to the urge to participate.

The message might be about   In reality, these Emails
a list of Pets' Names, or
a petition to the President where you add your name
  tie up Mail Servers all over the world
a story about a dying child, a "good deed," a book about Conversations with God, a prayer for God to Richly Bless Your Day, removing "In God We Trust" from coins, a Daddy's Poem, stroke symptoms, or shoes in church   get you to do what a computer virus does
a card trick, soldiers returning from Iraq, a touching father and son picture, a good joke or Whale caught in ropes story   are for the glorification of a spammer's massive ego
a (hoax) about a computer virus, Mandarin oranges from China, UPS delivery failure, a Christmas Tree or a boycott of Exxon/Mobil   waste our time and fill our Inboxes
The Dial 90# scare, Huge Virus Coming from Hallmark!, Hydroplaning Cars or Termites in mulch!   get us worried over nothing
a message about a terrorist conspiracy, Columbine and the NRA, Democrats starting wars, "So Help Us God" missing from a memorial, Obama bringing Hamas refugees to your neighborhood or Osama Bin-Laden captured or hanged   get politically focused people up in arms
Clever quotes from Andy Rooney or George Carlin   make us think TV and movie stars are smarter than they really are
a chain letter promising bad luck if you don't send it on, or a little boy quoting John 3:16   expose your Email address to hundreds of people, which can result in your Email ending up with a Spammer
a clever 'computer art' drawing   play on our own ego where we feel the need to 'be the first' to pass this on to our friends

Sometimes the perpetrator includes an instruction to 'select' the text, then Copy and Paste it into a new Email to all in your Address Book. This is so there will not be any '>>>' symbols, thus hiding the fact that the message has been forwarded many times.
Many emails of this type claim, untruthfully so, that they were checked out on Snopes.com or UrbandLegends.about.com as this adds legitimacy, but they're just using those web sites' names. What to do when you receive such an Email?
  1. If any Email prompts you to 'Forward' it to a certain number of people or to everyone in your Address Book, realize immediately the nature and purpose of the message, regardless of the content
  2. Reply to the sender and politely ask them to remove your address from their mailing List
  3. Have a good laugh and delete the message
  4. Educate yourself, do a search on the subject. For example, if you get a forwarded message about 'Andy Rooney sayings', search for "Andy Rooney email hoax". There are web sites that debunk these emails. Also, read articles, such as This.
Remember, we have probably already received the message, or it is just a recycled message scam from a couple of years ago.
So what if the message is truely funny, clever, sad or beautiful? Well, there is nothing saying you can't save it for your own reference. And, if you do feel the need to send it out, don't send it to everyone in your Address Book or to the specified number of people. Send it only to those who you know love getting these kinds of Emails and to no one else. If you put a huge list of addresses in the 'To:' field of an Email, those addresses are there for all to see, and some of the recipients may not want the world to know theirs. (Do you have everyone's permission to pass their address along?)
Here is an Email hint: When sending an Email to a 'List' or 'Group', put your own address in the 'To:' field and the list in the BCC (Blind Carbon Copy) field. That way, no one will see all of your addresses.

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Fake Computer Virus Alerts
A common Hoax Email one that alerts people that they 'may have received a Virus file'. The instructions say to click on Start, then Find (or Search) Files and look for a specific File Name. If it is on your computer, the instructions go on to say, you are told to Delete it immediately! Put it in the Recycle Bin and then empty that! So you do a search and sure enough, the file is on your PC. So you Delete it immediately. After all, would your friend who sent the Email be kidding you? Shortly after you delete the file, you get another Email from the same person, saying their message was wrong, the warning is a hoax, and telling you not to delete the file. But, alas, it is already gone.
This scam had fooled even the seasoned Web surfer. In reality, the file mentioned is a legitimate Windows file and you just zapped it. So, you ask, "Do I need the file, and if so, how do I get it back?" Well, the files that have been part of the hoaxes have not been 'critical' Windows files, but to get them back, you need to run 'Extract' and get the file off of your Windows CD, if you can find it. The Extract command is tricky, more easily understood by an old DOS user.
Two Windows files have been cited in these hoaxes are:
JDBGMGR.EXE and SULFNBK.EXE
These are real Windows files, not viruses, and future Email virus Hoaxes could reference practically any file. So beware, ask first. Real virus alerts come from your Anti-virus software maker or are in tech news. It is not to say that a friend might not send you an urgent Email about a virus. If someone realizes that their machine sent out a real virus, like the Klez.h worm, they may send an apologetic message and a link to a web site that has the real removal instructions or tools. Today's viruses never involve a single file that can simply be deleted. Removal procedures can be quite complex. So take the lead, be educated about spotting a Hoax warning and about
spotting a real virus.

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What to do about Spam
It appears that the problem of
Spam will get worse before it ever gets better, and it is now common to get 10 junk Emails for every legit one. Strict legislation may reduce, but will never put an end to, the practice of sending the millions of messages out every day by people who think you will ultimately buy something from them. Our only other hope is that people will get wise and never click through to the web sites that are spamming us. Maybe if we ignore them, they will find that it just doesn't pay. Unfortunately, with the software that spammers use, the cost to send a million Emails is very low.
What can we do?
If you have 'Server-side' Email, such as Yahoo, you are getting a little help already. They make an effort to identify Spam by lookng for common elements in the Email Header and body. Those messages go to a 'Bulk Mail' folder, where one mouse click will empty the folder, bypassing the Trash folder, and sending the whole mess to the 'land of Nul'. They detect Spam by noticing that there are millions of messages sent from the same source. But, spammers got wise to that filtering trick, and began putting random characters or a different name in the 'From' field for every Email they sent.
Example: From: "Consumer Advocate" <20419_8699_200212150230@koala.currentmail.com>
So the Email filters started looking the 'Subject' field. If the 'From' field was different, but the 'Subject' field was the same, those messages would be flagged as Spam and be sent to the 'Bulk Mail' folder. To get around that, spammers put random characters in the 'Subject' field, too. So, with 'unique' information in both the 'From' and 'Subject' fields, the mail would get past the filters and to your Inbox. Now, filtering techniques look into the body of the message to see if that part is the same in millions of Emails, even though the 'From' and 'Subject' are different. Spammers now vary the message content to make it unique, and the message makes it to your Inbox. Man! What a pain!
You might have the option to 'Block' an Email address. This is futile, because with the random characters in the 'From' field, you would never get a match in the future. Also, free Email providers have limits as to how many blocked addresses you can specify. A more sophisticated Client-side Email program might let you block even the 'From' Domain Name, regardless of the sender, but, guess what! The domain names used are phony or randomly generated, too!
So, what can you do? Is 'Unsubscribing' a way to reduce junk mail? By law, an unsolisited Email has to have a link to let you Unsubscribe to a sender's Mailing List. But some say that Unsubscribing will only tell them you are an active Email user, and they will give your address out to other spammers. Plus, if they continue sending you messages and use a different 'From' address, random as it might be, you can unsubscribe all day and end up with more junk mail, not less. Is there a time to safely unsubscribe and actually have it work? Yes, you have to be very selective:
Other Email tricks include 'Back Dating', or deliberately using a date from many months ago. Why? Well, some people keep a lot of old mail in their Inbox. Your Email program sorts by date, with the most recent at the top of the list. Back Dating will put the message way down in the Inbox listing. Seeing there is one 'Unread' message that is not at the top of the list forces you to scroll down though your old messages until you locate the new one. And they know that you will be curious and open it instead of deleting it like you might if it was with other junk mail at the top of the list.


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Other Browsing Rope-a-Dopes
One common trick is for some dirt bag to make an Ad that looks like a Windows Error Message. You've seen them - "Warning, your system has a Virus!!" or "Your Connection Speed is too low!!", complete with the Windows yellow or red warning icons. There is even a box in the upper right with an 'X', as if clicking there will close the window. It is, of course, a fake, and clicking anywhere in the ad window sends you off to some web site where several other windows open and it is difficult to get back to your starting point. There has been a lot of opposition to the use of error message formats for Ads, so hopefully, we will see fewer of them.
Similar to this is the Ad that has the 'moving target' where you are told that you will win something if you can click on the target. Once again, it doesn't matter where you click - off you go to their site.

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