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by Jan Harold Brunvand
August 28, 1998
It's been a good summer for Internet hoaxes. Depending on your point of view, of course.
This spring, I was subjected to a rash of rumor-mongering on Mirabilis' nifty ICQ network. With a twist. The ICQ client lets you sent URLs to friends, or whole spam-worthy lists of friends. And, sure enough, some ol' favorite net hoaxes were reborn on ICQ, such as:
Of course, they were bullshit. And the fact that they were ICQ messages doesn't alter their "chain mail" sensibilities. Mirabilis has a page about this. What you want to remember, though, is that any formal announcement about ICQ will arrive as a system message, not as a grass-roots rumor.
(You can filter out the spam under the ICQ's Security and Privacy settings, "Ignore List," "Do not accept Multi-Recipient Messages from..." check box. On this same dialog, you can also set to "Accept messages only from users on my contact list.")
As an aside, variations on that last ICQ rumor surfaced this summer on American Online, with the threat that Instant Messages (IMs) will incur a fee unless the chain mail was forwarded. But, really. Even AOL isn't so dim as to kill their #1 cash cow.
A more startling net hoax surfaced on AOL in June, and then spurted out of hijacked Yahoo Mail addresses.
Though pretty obviously a fake (particularly if you weren't even in the same area code of the number you were obliged to call), it was startling all the same. Turns out the number really did connect to a family with a boy named Andy, who knew nothing about the hoax. (The number was subsequently disconnected, and the Eff-Bee-Eye is on the case.) [c|net]
E-mail and online death threats aren't new. Our President has received e-threats. Jodie Foster was an early victim, maybe on account of that whole John Hinckley, Jr./TAXI DRIVER thing. Who knows. It's a pretty sick mind that e-mails death threats, false or otherwise, and thankfully there have been some convictions.
A good hoax doesn't die, it just gets recycled. Such is the case with the ever-popular con that somehow Microsoft's mail server and client prowess has resulted in a way to track down each mail transaction on the 'Net. The original hoax purported that Bill Gates would give you $1000 if you sent the notification on to 1000 friends. Yeah. Right.
The e-mail tracking hoax is back with a twist. If you forward the mail, and wish upon a star (I'd guess), you might get cash prizes ... or a free trip to Disneyworld! Of course it wouldn't be complete without a frantic testimonial:
Once again, it's a hoax. And hey. You don't owe me a thing. Not a damn thing. Oh,... maybe just give a little whistle.
You might be so ticked off at Bill for not sending you $1000 that you'd believe the cyberban legend that some wack Intel engineers sent him a private message, etched into every Pentium chip. Subtle hint: don't judge this book by its cover.
Finally, you might've read about the notorious www.ourfirsttime.com site, wherein two alleged teenagers promised to lose their virginity, live, online. What a thrill, eh? Turned out to be a promotional stunt by a Hollywood hack. The IEG porn site partners spilled the beans, while reporters cried (and howled), "Foul!" I guess reporters can be duped, as well. Ken Tipton (the aforementioned hack) then claimed it was all planned to be some kind of educational soap opera performance art thing. Most recently, he's now claiming to be the victim of libel and defamation.
"So, David, what's the hoax?" Well, dear reader, I think it's up to you to determine who's floating more BS here: