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Email Hoaxes
Status: Scam
Here's an offer that has scam written all over it. The GTC Group (I'm kind of reluctant to link to their website, on the off chance that I'll help send a victim their way, but here it is) claims that if you agree to establish a trading account in their name (no money or fees required!), they will pay you, and 5000 other lucky volunteers, $24,000. They're circulating this claim via email. Here's how they explain the deal on their website:

Our client is a family trust with $1B to invest. We recently presented them with an investment opportunity to make a return of 18% without risk. Unfortunately, this opportunity involves the purchase of certain restricted financial instruments in the Asian markets. Due to regulation, the purchase of these instruments is restricted to $200,000 per person (or trust or any other entity). We are therefore unable to invest any more than $200,000 of our client's funds. We presented our client with a possible solution, to which they were agreeable. Our solution is very simple, as I'm sure you may have preempted already. We require 5,000 people who would like the opportunity to earn a share of the return WITHOUT any investment required. Once we reach this number, each person will have a trading account established in their name. Each account will be funded with $200,000. The trading cycle will then begin, which lasts for just over one month. At this stage, the profit will be split between our client and the participants. Of the 18% return our client will receive 5%.

You don't really need to read any further than "a return of 18% without risk" to know it's a scam. There's no way to make an 18% return on anything, let alone $1B, without risk. There's also the fact that they claim to be a billion-dollar trading outfit, but they can only afford a rinky-dink website. And we're expected to believe that some "family trust" is going to entrust them with $1B? Even though they claim no fees are required, I'm sure people who sign up will be asked to pay 'unanticipated fees' somewhere down the line. I'm also sure no one will ever see that $24,000. According to the registration info for the domain name, the GTC Group is run by some guy named George Davies out of Stanbrook House, 2-5 Old Bond Street, London. (Thanks to Harvey Wharfield for forwarding me the link to this thing.)
Categories: Con Artists, Email Hoaxes
Posted by Alex on Tue Jan 17, 2006
Comments (23)
Status: Partially true, partially fake
image Dipankar Mitra sent me this graphic which is circulating via email, warning of a "Potential new risk from mobile phones." He notes that it's accompanied by a caption that reads:

Please use left ear while using cell (mobile), because if you use the right one it will affect brain directly. This is a true fact from Apollo medical team. Please forward to all your well wishers

He asks, "Do let me know if it is real or hoax..."

Well, the caption is definitely a hoax. I have no idea what the Apollo medical team is. (When I google the term I just pull up references to this email.) And the suggestion that it would somehow be safer to use your left ear rather than your right is absurd.

However, the graphic and the information in it are not a hoax. The illustration was created by the Graphic News agency back in 2002. (Click 'Graphic Search' on their site, then do a keyword search for the term 'blood-brain barrier', and you'll pull up the graphic.) The information it describes comes from a study published in the May 2002 issue of the scientific journal Differentiation. Researcher Darius Leszcynski did find that when human endothelial cells were exposed to the maximum level of radiation allowed under international safety standards for mobile phones, a stress response could be observed in the cells. But he also noted that most mobile phones emit much less radiation than the levels used in the experiment. So there's probably no imminent danger of damaging your blood-brain barrier by using a mobile phone.
Categories: Email Hoaxes, Technology
Posted by Alex on Tue Jan 10, 2006
Comments (8)
Status: Hoax
A small British newspaper reports that tanning salons in New Eltham (which, I guess, is a suburb of London) are being targeted by a hoax email warning that hidden cameras are snapping photos of women as they tan. The email is accompanied by "dozens of revealing pictures of naked women using tanning beds, who are obviously unaware they are being photographed." (Two of the pictures are below.) The article continues:

Angry women who use tanning beds are circulating the pictures to each other, believing them to be genuine and warning their friends and family not to use the salon.

Apparently the candid pictures actually show a tanning salon in California. The article doesn't state if the photos were taken by an actual hidden camera, or if they were staged. But I'm sure that this hoax must be popping up in more places than just New Eltham (especially if it started in California).

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Categories: Email Hoaxes, Photos/Videos
Posted by Alex on Wed Nov 30, 2005
Comments (14)
Status: Email hoax (real pictures, fake caption)
Bad: Falling for an email hoax. Worse: Using the hoax as the basis for your presentation to the local city planning commission, thereby displaying your gullibility to the entire public.

As reported by the Muncie Star Press (no link), Don Love gets the award for doing the latter. He received an email containing a series of pictures of an opulent estate (shown below), with the caption:

In case you're wondering where this hotel is, it isn't a hotel at all. IT IS A HOUSE! It's owned by the family of Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, the former president of the United Arab Emirates and ruler of Abu-Dhabi.

Enraged, he made a slide presentation out of the pictures and showed them to the planning commission, as part of his effort to get them to approve construction of an ethanol plant. His point was that they should promote local energy projects, to prevent all the city's money going to greedy, oil-rich sheiks. He told them: "This is the type of thing being done with your petro dollars that I want to re-patriate. Keep in mind the gentleman has more than 20 wives. This is one of 70 baths. Some are bigger than my house. This is his little swimming pool. These are his cars."

Of course, the pictures don't show a sheik's palace. In reality they show a fancy hotel in Abu Dhabi called the Emirates Palace. All the stuff about 20 wives is bogus too. If Love had bothered to do any research, he would have found this out. He probably could also have found some real pictures of a sheik's palace, which would have been a more effective way of making his point. Incidentally, my other house (the one in my daydreams) looks just like the one in the pictures.

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Categories: Email Hoaxes, Photos/Videos, Places
Posted by Alex on Tue Nov 15, 2005
Comments (69)
Status: Viral email
Pasted below is the content of an email that's going around. It's not a hoax, but it deals with issues of camouflage and deception. (It also reminds me of some Before and After pictures that I posted over a year ago.) The subject line of the email is: Never underestimate the power of makeup.

Categories: Email Hoaxes, Photos/Videos, Politics
Posted by Alex on Mon Nov 14, 2005
Comments (29)
Status: Probably a hoax
imageLast month Precious Lara Quigaman, Miss Philippines, was crowned as the 2005 Miss International. An email now going around relates a story about her answer to a question asked during the final round:

Precious Lara Quigaman, the Miss Philippines who took home the 2005 Miss International crown, was asked during the final round the following question:
What do you say to the people of the world who have typecasted filipinos as nannies?
Precious Lara replied, “I take no offense on being typecasted as a nanny. But i do take offense that the educated people of the world have somehow denegrated the true sense and meaning of what a nanny is.”
Quigaman further elaborated: “Let me tell you what she is. She is someone who gives more than she takes. She is someone you trust to look after the very people most precious to you - your child, the elderly, yourself. She is the one who has made a living out of caring and loving other people.”
In closing, Precious ended her nanny speech with, “So to those who have typecasted us as nannies, thank you. It is a testament to the loving and caring culture of the Filipino people. And for that, I am forever proud and grateful of my roots and culture.”
That’s a winning answer, ladies and gentlemen!

I've been unable to find any source to confirm that this question was indeed asked to Quigaman during the final round. But it seems like it would have been a very odd question to ask. And according to Crispina Belen of the Manila Bulletin, there were no questions of this sort asked during the pageant:

There was no Question & Answer portion at the 45th Miss International beauty pageant in Tokyo but the finalists were asked to write an essay about their advocacies and plans to help the less fortunate. Precious Lara concerns the streetchildren. She has said in the past that she would like to be a missionary doctor to be able to help the poor and the needy.

And a post on states that:

That wasn't Quigaman's winning answer. Miss International traditionally doesn't have a final question. The finalists each do a speech about what their cause is and what they would do if they were Miss International. Her speech was about helping children and their need for education.

So it would seem that the email is a hoax. Personally, I had never realized that Filipinos were typecast as nannies. I thought it would be the British, if anyone, who would be typecast in that way.
Categories: Email Hoaxes
Posted by Alex on Wed Oct 19, 2005
Comments (8)
Warning: Graphic. This is from an email going around:

A police officer sent this to me. It is not for the faint of heart. If you have a weak stomach, then don't look at the URL. It is a picture of the demise of a suicide jumper taken shortly after he landed. It shows him with his insides now on the outside. You will see the look of horror on the faces of the bystanders. The faces of the bystanders is why I believe this is real..
Categories: Email Hoaxes, Photos/Videos
Posted by Alex on Fri Apr 22, 2005
Comments (31)
Are you soon going to need a license to pick wild mushrooms in Illinois? That was what an email press release that circulated around last week stated. The email claimed that mushroom hunters would have to get a license from the same vendors that sell hunting and fishing licenses, and that revenue from the license sales would benefit biological and archaeological research in Illinois. The email prompted dozens of people to call the Illinois Natural Resources Department to complain. Today a Department spokeswoman, Gayle Simpson, denied that any such licenses were going to be required. In other words, the email was a hoax.
Categories: Email Hoaxes, Law/Police/Crime
Posted by Alex on Tue Apr 05, 2005
Comments (4)
A new variation of the email tracing hoax has been spotted. Instead of promising that Bill Gates or AOL will send you money if you forward their email, this message promises that you'll get champagne. Here's the email:

Greetings Champagne Lovers!!
Send this message to 10 people, with a copy to
Veuve Clicquot France will contact you in order to deliver you a case of
champagne in three weeks. They are doing this in order to enlarge their
database. It does work and you receive six bottles in 15 days. Salut a tous
les amoureux du champagne

Unfortunately Veuve Clicquot has already posted a warning message on their website about the hoax, so there's absolutely no chance that it's real. (via Fermentations)
Categories: Email Hoaxes, Food
Posted by Alex on Mon Feb 14, 2005
Comments (4)
I found this posted in the alt.folklore.urban usenet group:

A while before the catastrophe, a local clerk in one of the countries hit by the tsunamis receives a warning note stating "Tsunami will reach you shortly!" - and, in response, sends a welcome crew to the local airport, to welcome and pick up the mysterious "Mr Tsunami", whom he expects to be an unannounced ministerial visitor or inspector.

I don't understand why a clerk would have received a message warning him about the tsunami. But I don't think it's worth trying to understand this, since it's obviously just a dumb joke.
Categories: Email Hoaxes, Folklore/Tall Tales
Posted by Alex on Fri Jan 14, 2005
Comments (3)
I received an email containing this list of THE YEAR'S BEST [ACTUAL] HEADLINES OF 2004! But, of course, these aren't really headlines from 2004. This list has been going around for at least four years. Check out this competition from 2000 in which people created images to match some of these headlines. Plus, I doubt any of these were ever actual headlines either.
  • Crack Found on Governor's Daughter.
  • Something Went Wrong in Jet Crash, Expert Says.
  • Police Begin Campaign to Run Down Jaywalkers.
  • Iraqi Head Seeks Arms!
  • Is There a Ring of Debris around Uranus?
  • Prostitutes Appeal to Pope.
  • Panda Mating Fails; Veterinarian Takes Over.
  • Miners Refuse to Work after Death.
  • War Dims Hope for Peace.
  • If Strike Isn't Settled Quickly, It May Last Awhile.
  • Red Tape Holds Up New Bridges.
  • Man Struck By Lightning Faces Battery Charge.
  • New Study of Obesity Looks for Larger Test Group.
  • Astronaut Takes Blame for Gas in Spacecraft.
  • Local High School Dropouts Cut in Half.
  • Hospitals are Sued by 7 Foot Doctors.
  • Typhoon Rips Through Cemetery; Hundreds Dead.
  • Police Chief says "when we find prostitutes on our streets, we stay on top of them".
Categories: Email Hoaxes, Journalism
Posted by Alex on Wed Jan 05, 2005
Comments (7)
The story of Faye Nicole San Juan has received quite a bit of coverage in the Philippine press, but almost none here in America. Word of Faye Nicole began spreading through the Filipino community around the end of October, via an email titled "Misplaced priorities can mislead a nation." It was all about how the Philippines had supposedly let down 12-year-old Faye Nicole.

Faye was a young girl hoping to represent her country in the International Science Quiz in Brisbane, Australia. Her essay on "The Effect of Ionized Radiation on the Philippine Fruit Fly" had won her a place at the competition, but she couldn't afford the airfare, and the Philippine government wouldn't provide it for her. But luckily her church, Bread of Life Ministries, offered to help her go. She made it to Australia, but no sooner had she got off the plane, accompanied by her mother, than they were robbed by a fellow Filipino. Undaunted, they pawned some of their clothes and walked 2 kilometres to the competition. Faye proceeded to win first place (though there were no Filipinos there to cheer for her), but now had no money to get back home. A kindly Japanese stranger who was at the competition luckily helped arrange for them to get a flight back home.

The Philippine press, when it learned of this story, gnashed its teeth about how little their society supports bright kids like Faye. But they needn't have bothered. The entire story has turned out to be a hoax, invented by Faye's mother. The immigration departments in both the Philippines and Australia have no record of their travel. This science quiz doesn't seem to exist. And Faye's church has denied involvement. It's not known why the mother invented the story.
Categories: Email Hoaxes
Posted by Alex on Fri Nov 19, 2004
Comments (9)
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