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Email Hoaxes
A software company has announced it's making a widget called LazyTruth that will scan all your incoming emails for misinformation:

tl;dr: We’re building an inbox widget that surfaces vetted information when you receive an email forward full of political myths, urban rumors, or security threats. It’s called LazyTruth.

Basically the widget will scan the text of your incoming emails and check them against "pre-existing nonpartisan information". It's an interesting idea. I'll be curious to see how well it works.

Of course, the main problem will be that the people who need the widget most, won't use it. And the widget won't work if some authoritative source hasn't already debunked the rumor. So it probably won't detect the latest twitter rumor you may be confronted with. (via Engadget)
Categories: Email Hoaxes, Technology
Posted by Alex on Wed May 09, 2012
Comments (3)
The NY Times apologized for printing an email from the Mayor of Paris in which he criticized Caroline Kennedy's bid for Clinton's senate seat. You see, it's easy to put a fake email address in the "From" field, so it's the Times's policy to always check that the person who seems to have sent them an email actually did so. But they didn't do that in this case, and now the Mayor is denying he wrote the email.

The Times is "reviewing procedures" to make sure something like this doesn't happen again. Which probably means some underpaid intern is getting yelled at. Link: NY Times. (Thanks, John!)
Categories: Email Hoaxes, Identity/Imposters, Journalism
Posted by Alex on Tue Dec 23, 2008
Comments (2)
A very strange astronomical rumor is circulating:

Coming October 17, 2008 the sun will rise continuously for 36 hrs (1.5 days). During this time the US countries will be dark for 1.5 days.
It will convert 3 days into 2 big days. It will happen once in 2400 yrs. We're very lucky to see this. Forward it to all your friends.

This rumor appears to have come from India, so it means to say that the sun will rise for 36 hours over India, and the Americas will be dark for the same amount of time. Not that this makes the rumor any less nonsensical. The only way for this rumor to come true would be if the earth stopped rotating. Let's all hope that doesn't happen.

David Emery has already debunked this. He found that, "During a one-month period from mid-August to mid-September 2008, over 15,000 postings containing the phrase 'the sun will rise continuously for 36 hours' appeared on the Internet." He also theorizes that "the perpetrator(s) of the hoax put a great deal of effort into disseminating it."
Categories: Email Hoaxes, Science
Posted by Alex on Mon Sep 29, 2008
Comments (48)
An email doing the rounds in Alaska tells of a boy who was abducted by "ircenrraat" -- which (from what I can gather) are the Alaskan equivalent of leprechauns. The email is written by Nick Andrew Jr., who says that he found the boy standing in the middle of a field. From Anchorage Daily News:

The boy said he was "brought into" Pilcher Mountain, a site often associated with ircenrraat encounters. There, he was questioned and saw other "little beings."
"He said he made contact with a little girl abducted over 40 years ago," Andrew said. "She told him who she was and she wanted help."
After that the ircenrraat decided to release the boy. "And that's when he came to, I guess, a few minutes before I found him."
Andrew maintained calm perspective about the experience. "Is this kid telling the truth?" he said, leaving the answer open-ended.

Being a skeptic, I'd say that someone is either inventing a tall tale or is letting their imagination run wild. But the real reason I posted this story is that it reminded me of my late great uncle who (so I've been told) once designed a camera that could photograph "the little people that live on plants." I never saw this camera nor any of the pictures taken with it. But I wish I had. (via The Anomalist)
Categories: Email Hoaxes, Paranormal
Posted by Alex on Tue Jun 03, 2008
Comments (4)
George May had a clever idea: Let oysters soak in a solution of Viagra for a while, and then sell them as Viagra Oysters. Of course, Pfizer is objecting to this use of its drug, and food-safety officials don't like the idea of selling purposefully contaminated oysters. But still, May is confident he's got a successful product on his hands, and his idea has received quite a lot of media attention. So it pleased him, but didn't surprise him, when he received the following email from Google's corporate offices:
"Congratulations! The Viagra oyster story is the fastest growing internet story since 9/11 with over 700,000 links in 24 hours."
Except, of course, Google doesn't send out congratulatory letters of this kind. If they did, they'd constantly be congratulating whoever was the latest internet-celebrity-of-the-day. The email was the work of a prankster who forged the "from" field. Or was it? Perhaps May cooked up the email himself to gain a little more media attention for himself. He's denying this allegation, but it seems plausible to me since he's the one benefitting from the hoax -- and because his first reaction on receiving the email was to call the media and tell them about it.
Categories: Email Hoaxes
Posted by Alex on Thu Jun 07, 2007
Comments (8)
Adela forwarded me this email, wanting to know if it's real or fake:
Need a dog??????????
An actual ad from Colorado!
FREE to an approved home. Excellent guard dog, loves other small-dog breeds. Answers to the name of Dolly.
Will eat anything, owner cannot afford to feed her anymore, as there are no more thieves, murderers, rapists or molesters left in the neighborhood. Your help will be appreciated...

The text, I assume, is fake. But the picture looks real. That's just a big dog. Looks like a mastiff. I've become more familiar with very big dogs ever since my parents got a 180-pound Great Dane named Falcon. He's so big that every picture we take of him looks photoshopped. Here's a picture of me and Falcon (and my wife on the left) taken over Thanksgiving while visiting my parents. Note how Falcon's head appears to be at least twice the size of my head. That's not a trick of the camera. His head really is twice the size of mine, and I don't have a small head.

Related Post:
Feb 28, 2005: Big Dog
Categories: Animals, Email Hoaxes
Posted by Alex on Wed Nov 29, 2006
Comments (44)
Giant Gnome
Maria Reidelbach's Gnome Chomsky is aiming for a Guinness record for tallest gnome, at a whopping 13 feet, 6 inches tall.

Woman Finds Husband's Secret - Female Hormones
Catherine Everett was surprised when she walked into the bathroom, only to find her husband admiring his new breasts.
Coming soon, allegedly...

Teenager Sends his Ex-company 5 Million Hoax Emails
David Lennon was annoyed when he was fired from his job. So he sent 5 million hoax emails over the course of a week, quoting The Ring. He was given a two-month curfew order and fitted with an electronic tag.
Categories: Body Manipulation, Email Hoaxes, Gnomes, Websites
Posted by Flora on Sun Sep 03, 2006
Comments (6)
Status: True
I warn in Hippo Eats Dwarf that "Unsolicited e-mail is not a reliable source of information—about anything" (Reality Rule 7.4). This is especially true of all those random health-related claims that circulate via email warning of flesh-eating bananas, poisonous perfume, toxic tampons, etc. So it's refreshing to find an example of a health-related email warning that's actually true.

On May 7, Seattle's KOMO 4 News ran a segment about Inflammatory Breast Cancer (IBC), a deadly form of cancer that most women are totally unaware of. IBC doesn't present with typical symptoms (there's no lump), and it can't readily be detected with a mammogram. Instead women and doctors alike often mistake IBC's symptoms for rashes or insect bites.

The KOMO news segment soon inspired an email warning to start circulating. One version of the email, as reported on, reads:
The Silent Killer...Very IMPORTANT
Ladies, you MUST watch this video...this is not a joke...please read and watch. It's a form of Breast Cancer that I honestly had never even heard of. Stay healthy!
Please show this to other women you know, or print it out for them to read.
Within less than two months, this email had spread far and wide. So far that KOMO now reports that:
As of Thursday morning, amazingly, the video has been accessed a total of 10 million times, and has helped shed light on the important subject to several news agencies across the nation and world. We continue to hope the video helps provide important life-saving information and helps bring more awareness to a subject that not many people knew about.
It's cool that an email warning is actually serving a useful function, for once. But I think the advice that most unsolicited information received via email is garbage should still stand.
Categories: Email Hoaxes, Health/Medicine
Posted by Alex on Fri Jun 30, 2006
Comments (3)
Status: Hoax
Here's an email that's been circulating around:
"A 36-year-old female had an accident several weeks ago and wrote off her vehicle. It was raining, though not excessively, when her car suddenly began to aquaplane and literally flew through the air. She was not seriously injured but very stunned at the sudden occurrence. When she explained what had happened to a highway patrolman, he told her she should never drive in the rain with cruise control activated. If your car begins to aquaplane, it will accelerate beyond the set cruise control speed when the tyres lose contact with the asphalt."

So is there any truth to this? Is it dangerous to drive in the rain with cruise control activated? Not according to Australia's RAA (Royal Automobile Association) which recently issued an advisory about this email:

“Should the car’s tyres break traction with the road, such as in an aquaplane situation, the increase in wheel speed would be sensed and the cruise control system would then reduce the amount of throttle and maintain the set speed. Additionally, cruise control systems are deactivated as soon as the brake is applied. As braking is usually an automatic reaction in most emergency situations, the scenario of cruise control causing an increase in vehicle speed is highly unlikely.”

I actually never use cruise control, whether or not it's raining, because I have a bit of a phobia about it. I have a fear that one time I'll step on the brake, and the cruise control won't deactivate.
Categories: Email Hoaxes
Posted by Alex on Thu Apr 13, 2006
Comments (25)
Status: Undetermined (but probably true)
Alex Palmer forwarded me the following email which is circulating around, consisting of the following text and four pictures:

Subject: Picture is worth a thousand words.
The Honda rider was traveling at such a "very high speed", his reaction time was not sufficient enough to avoid this accident. Swedish Police estimate a speed of ~250 KM/h (155mph) before the bike hit the slow moving car side-on at an intersection. At that speed, they predicted that the rider's reaction time (once the vehicle came into view) wasn't sufficient enough for him to even apply the brakes. The car had two passengers and the bike rider was found INSIDE the car with them. The Volkswagen actually flipped over from the force of impact and landed 10 feet from where the collision took place.

All three involved (two in car and rider) were killed instantly. This graphic demonstration was placed at the Stockholm Motorcycle Fair by the Swedish Police and Road Safety Department. The sign above the display also noted that the rider had only recently obtained his license. At 250 KM (155 mph) the operator is traveling at 227 feet per second. With normal reaction time to SEE-DECIDE-REACT of 1.6 seconds the above operator would have traveled over 363 feet while making a decision on what actions to take. In this incident the Swedish police indicate that no actions were taken.

image image image image

The images and text are posted on quite a few sites, including one that shows a picture of the actual accident scene. I haven't been able to confirm any of the details, but this doesn't surprise me given that the incident apparently happened in Sweden, and I don't speak Swedish. (For instance, I don't pull up any references in Lexis-Nexis to a Stockholm Motorcycle Fair.) But it seems reasonable to me that if a motorcycle going 155mph hit a car side-on, it would definitely have enough force to flip the car (which is the detail that Alex Palmer was suspicious of). After all, that's a lot of energy, which has to go somewhere.
Categories: Email Hoaxes, Photos/Videos
Posted by Alex on Wed Apr 12, 2006
Comments (28)
Status: Partially true, partially false
An email is circulating around that makes the following claim:

On Wednesday of this week (tomorrow), at two minutes and three seconds after 1:00 a.m., the time and date will be 01:02:03 04/05/06.
This will never happen again.

That's just wrong. It probably won't happen again in any of our lifetimes, but it will happen again: in 2106, 2206, 2306, etc. And in Europe they write the date as day, month, year, so it won't be true over there. (But you could fly over to the UK and experience the same 'rare' phenomenon on May 4th of this year!)
Categories: Email Hoaxes
Posted by Alex on Tue Apr 04, 2006
Comments (9)
Status: Theoretically could happen (though there's no solid evidence it ever has)
You may have received this email warning recently:

Imagine: You walk across the parking lot, unlock your car and get inside. Then you lock all your doors, start the engine and shift into REVERSE. Habit!
You look into the rear-view window to back out of your parking space and you notice a piece of paper, some sort of advertisement stuck to your rear window. So, you shift into PARK, unlock your doors and jump out of your vehicle to remove that paper (or whatever it is) that is obstructing your view... when you reach the back of your car, that is when the car-jackers jump out of no where ... jump into your car and take off -- your engine was running, your purse is in the car, and they practically mow you down as they speed off in your car.
Just drive away and remove the paper that is stuck to your window later and be thankful that your read this email and that you forwarded it to your friends.

I got it and dismissed it as a hoax, given its similarity to the false warning about people trying to sell perfume in parking lots. (They supposedly get you to sniff the perfume which is really ether and knocks you out.) But an article in the Mercury News notes that it might be worth paying attention to the paper-on-the-rear-window warning. They interview a California Highway Patrol officer who says:

I have heard of this a few times, and it is true. What makes it popular among car thieves is that it's non-confrontational (no gun or threat needed) which equals a lesser fine or sentence if they're caught. And it's a lot easier than traditional methods. Your readers should definitely heed this advice to drive away.

David Emery notes that the warning might be a bit overblown, but also cautions that: "Much more important than worrying about whether or not to remove a piece of paper stuck to your windshield, therefore — in any situation where you might be vulnerable to a carjacking — is being aware of your surroundings and taking note of who may be lurking nearby as you enter or exit your automobile."
Categories: Email Hoaxes, Law/Police/Crime
Posted by Alex on Thu Jan 26, 2006
Comments (25)
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