Saturday, February 24, 2007

Internet Hype & Myths:
Don't Play It Forward

I love the Internet. It puts a world-class library at our fingertips and makes mass communication easy and inexpensive. I'm able to post this Blog (did you know it means "Weblog") utilizing no envelopes, no postage, no mailboxes. It's amazing!

But all good things can be put to bad use. I get about 150 pieces of e-mail a day. 90% of it is garbage. Do I need bigger breasts? Sure. Do I need a bigger erection? Nope. Do I need Hoodia? What the hell is that stuff?

And then there are e-mails I get like this which has been circulating the Internet since November 1997, from the office of the chief executive of Microsoft Corporation.
Hello Everyone,

And thank you for signing up for my Beta Email Tracking Application or (BETA)
for short. My name is Bill Gates. Here at Microsoft we have just compiled an
e-mail tracing program that tracks everyone to whom this message is forwarded
to. It does this through an unique IP (Internet Protocol) address log book

We are experimenting with this and need your help. Forward this
to everyone you know and if it reaches 1000 people everyone
on the list you will receive $1000 and a copy of Windows98 at my expense.

Note: Duplicate entries will not be counted. You will be notified by email
with further instructions once this email has reached 1000 people. Vista
will not be shipped unitl it has been released to the general public.

Your friend,
Bill Gates & The Microsoft Development Team.
After a little investigation on some urban-legend websites, I discovered the allegations, though widely circulated, were based on false rumors. If you get junk mail like this, go to a website like this one - Internet Legends & Hoaxes Revealed and check them out.

And then there are e-mails like this, which you think come from PayPal because they have you e-mail address and even use the Paypal logo...

PayPal Account® Posible Fraud - Notification Security check ! You have received this email because your account has been used from different locations by you or someone else. For security purpose, we are required to open an investigation into this matter. In order to safeguard your account, we require that you confirm your banking details. To help speed up this process, please access the following link so we cancomplete the verification of your PayPal Account: Alert code: 1366968850 (Link Removed)

Please Note: If we do no receive the appropriate account verification within 48 hours, then we will assume this PayPal Bank account is fraudulent and will be suspended. The purpose of this verification is to ensure that your bank account has not been fraudulently used and to combat the fraud from our community.

We appreciate your support and understanding and thank you for your prompt attention to this matter. Regards, PayPal - Paypal Account® Security Department

Because we can't check out everything we read and hear, we have to evaluate the credibility of the information. One way is to consider what you know about the accuracy and integrity of the source. That's tough enough even when we know the identity of the source. When I get an e-mail like that from PayPal, I forward it to them (Send it to Here is the official PayPal response to this type of e-mail after I forwarded it to them.....

Thank you for taking the time to contact The email you reported was not sent by PayPal and is a phishing (fraudulent) email.

And here is their policy on e-mails like this...

Remember, PayPal will never ask you for your password in an e-mail. There are no exceptions to this policy. If someone claiming to be from PayPal asks you for your password in response to an e-mail, you should refuse to provide it and contact us. To contact PayPal, go to the PayPal Help Center and click the "Contact Us" link.

But with unsourced, unverified claims passed around on the Internet, we need to be very, very cautious. Regardless of the motives of the originator of these sorts of charges, most people who respond to these messages or forward such messages to others not only believe the information is true, they believe they are performing a civic duty. But good intentions are not enough.

In efforts to prevent and correct wrongs, we must be sure not to commit wrongs. We should handle this internet crap as if we were handling a loaded gun. If we don't have the time to check it out, we shouldn't take the time to repeat it.

My advice: Don't pass it on.