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Subject: Scams and Hoaxes FAQ: Messages you DON'T want to post

This article was archived around: 18 Jul 1999 12:02:40 GMT

All FAQs in Directory: net-abuse-faq
All FAQs posted in: news.newusers.questions, alt.newbie, alt.newbies
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Archive-name: net-abuse-faq/scams Posting-Frequency: weekly
Scams and Hoaxes FAQ: Messages you DON'T want to post ----------------------------------------------------- $$$Get Rich Quick$$$, Good Times Virus, and Other Nuisances There are a large number of scams and hoaxes that keep popping up on BBS's, Usenet, and the Internet; many are also distributed by faxes or by E-mail. A few of them were started by well-meaning but foolish people; most of them were created by people who just wanted to cause trouble or rip other people off. For those of you who are new on line: please don't post or repost this type of material if you run into it. Most of us are sick and tired of seeing these things, and all you'll do is annoy everybody. ---------------------------------------------------------------------------- Some typical scams and hoaxes: 1. 'Get Rich Quick!' schemes, also known as 'MMF' (for 'Make Money Fast!'): There are large numbers of these. One of the earliest ones started out "My name is Dave Rhodes. In September 1988 my car was repossessed...", and continues on to tell how 'Dave' became fabulously wealthy. Some MMFs try to sell you 'reports' which will supposedly make you rich, others ask you to send money to everybody on a list of names, and yet others want your money so they can set you up in a 'lucrative' home business selling a 'wonderful' product. All of these things have one goal: to separate fools from their money. They claim to tell you how to get rich, but they're nothing but scams. Most of them involve illegal pyramid schemes or chain letters (i.e., mail fraud). And just because one *says* it's legal, that doesn't mean it really is. Chain letters and other types of MMFs are also known as 'Lose Your Internet Account Quick!' schemes: distributing or participating in them is prohibited by most ISPs, and you stand a good chance of losing your Internet access if you use your account to distribute MMFs or other scams. Friendly advice: do not get involved in any on-line money making opportunities, work at home schemes, credit repair schemes, etc. without advice from a lawyer, accountant, or other qualified professional. If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. 2. Warnings about an 'E-mail virus': An early version warned that an E-mail message (or text file) with the subject 'Good Times' would melt down your CPU and do other horrible things if you even read it. There are similar warnings about posts with other subjects, such as 'Deeyenda', 'Pen Pal Greetings', 'Join the Crew', 'Win A Holiday', "It Takes Guts to Say 'Jesus'", and many others. These warnings are hoaxes: there are no viruses or Trojan horses that are distributed in plain-text E-mail messages. Please note that it is possible for an E-mail message or Usenet article that includes a file attachment or embedded executable code (i.e., JavaScript in an HTML message) to transmit a virus or Trojan horse: Any executable file you receive, by any method, can contain a virus or other malicious code; this includes files received as part of an E-mail message or newsgroup post. So treat executable file attachments as carefully as you would any other files you receive: use a virus scanner on them. For a non-technical introduction to computer viruses and Trojan horse programs, see "Computer Virus FAQ for New Users". It's posted to the new user newsgroups weekly, and you can also find it in the Usenet FAQ archive at <http://www.faqs.org/faqs/computer-virus/new-users/>. 3. "FCC Modem Tax", "Bill 602P", charging for E-mail, and related nonsense: In 1987, the U.S. Federal Communications Commission considered a proposal that would have increased the amounts paid by ISPs for their connections to local telephone networks. This became known as the "FCC Modem Tax" proposal. It was abandoned by the FCC in 1988, and since then the FCC has repeatedly stated that it has NO intention of changing its rules to allow charging per-minute charges to ISPs for their connections to local telephone networks. Unfortunately, over ten years later, bogus warnings about the proposed 'tax' and other Internet surcharges still show up on a regular basis. Most of these warnings are deliberate hoaxes, but a few may be based on misunderstandings of bills or proposals under consideration. The latest variants of this hoax are various bogus warnings that the U.S. Congress or the Canadian government are considering bills to charge people for sending E-mail; some versions mention a 'Bill 602P'. The one thing most of these hoaxes have in common is to urge people to write protest letters to government officials. Please do NOT write to the FCC, to Congress, or to any other government agencies based on warnings you see on the Internet unless you have verified that the warning is legitimate AND you understand what the proposal is really about. You can check the status of FCC regulatory proposals at the FCC's web site, <http://www.fcc.gov/>, and you can check the status of bills being considered by Congress at the Library of Congress's Thomas web site, <http://thomas.loc.gov/>. 4. The little boy dying of cancer who wants everybody to send him lots of get well cards: The little boy was cured, no longer has cancer, and is now grown up. Yet the get well cards are still coming in, and there are so many of them that they're overloading his town's post office and causing major problems. All because of well intentioned people who keep reposting the boy's story without bothering to investigate it. There are a number of variants of this one, such as requests for business cards, etc. Please don't spread these requests around or mail off 'donations' to the addresses mentioned in them, no matter how sincere they sound. 5. E-mail tracking program chain letters: These are E-mails that ask you to forward copies to other people because an 'E-mail tracking program' is monitoring them. Supposedly, you'll get lots of money, free beer, or some other reward if you send the E-mail to enough people. Some of them claim to come from Bill Gates, Walt Disney Jr., Miller Brewing Co., Nike, or Microsoft. Needless to say, these are all hoaxes: just more garbage to clutter up people's inboxes. There's no such thing as an E-mail tracking program that can do what these letters claim. If you receive a copy of one of these, just delete it. Forwarding these may get you hate mail and complaints to your ISP, but it most definitely won't get you any money or free beer. 6. 'Good Luck' or 'Make a wish' chain letters: These messages tell you that passing them along to several other people will bring you good luck or make a wish come true, and that deleting them will bring you bad luck. They often include stories about the good and bad luck the letter has brought to other people. Some include an ASCII picture of a 'Good Luck Totem'. DON'T pass these letters on or post them in newsgroups. They may look cute if you've never seen one before; but they've been going around for years and most of us are sick and tired of seeing them. If you do send one along, you'll probably wind up with _bad_ luck: people may send you nasty flames, mail bomb you, complain to your ISP, etc. ---------------------------------------------------------------------------- If you see any of the above, or anything that looks like them, please don't respond to them or spread them around. You'll probably wind up looking foolish, and you may also get heavily flamed. And 'Get Rich Quick!' schemes or deliberate trouble making can cost you your Internet account and cause you legal problems. NOTE: if a warning claims to come from IBM, the FCC, or some other well-known source, you can check up on it just by going to their web site. (A legitimate warning message should include a pointer to a reputable location where the warning can be verified.) If the warning isn't on the referenced site, it's probably just a hoax. And if you can't verify something yourself, contact the person who sent you the warning (or posted it in a newsgroup) and ask THEM where to verify it. ---------------------------------------------------------------------------- Some rules of thumb for spotting scams and hoaxes: 1. If a message just screams 'PASS ME AROUND!', be suspicious. 2. If a message is second hand info with no reliable source for verification, be suspicious. 3. If a message asks for your money or your credit card info, promises to make you rich, or claims to be legal, be very, very suspicious! ---------------------------------------------------------------------------- Please don't let any of the above discourage you from passing on verified warnings from sources you know are reliable. But PLEASE check out the stories that don't have really good credentials: an awful lot of them are hoaxes. ---------------------------------------------------------------------------- Sources of additional information: 1. The U.S. Post Office has information about the legal consequences of chain letters, pyramids, and similar scams on their Consumer Fraud page at <http://www.usps.gov/websites/depart/inspect/consmenu.htm>. 2. The CIAC's hoax and chain letter pages, at <http://ciac.llnl.gov/ciac/CIACHoaxes.html> and <http://ciac.llnl.gov/ciac/CIACChainLetters.html>, have excellent information about many of the common hoaxes and scams currently showing up in E-mail and in Usenet newsgroups. 3. The Computer Virus Myths home page, at <http://www.kumite.com/myths/>, has large amounts of information on virus hoaxes and similar items. 4. The AFU & Urban Legends Archive, at <http://www.urbanlegends.com/>, has tons of information about everything from kidney theft stories to E-mail virus hoaxes. Or drop into the newsgroup <news:alt.folklore.urban>. 5. For information about real viruses: read the FAQs for <news:comp.virus> and <news:alt.comp.virus> and join the discussions in those newsgroups. You can find the FAQs in the newsgroups or in the Usenet FAQ archive at <http://www.faqs.org/faqs/computer-virus/>. You can also find virus info on the web sites of companies producing anti-virus software. 6. For information about net abuse: visit the news.admin.net-abuse.* (nana) newsgroups and read the FAQs at <http://www.faqs.org/faqs/net-abuse-faq/>. Laws vary from place to place, so check with your own authorities for information about the legality of chain letters, pyramids, etc. in your area. ---------------------------------------------------------------------------- And remember: TANSTAAFL! (There Ain't No Such Thing As A Free Lunch!) R.A.H. ---------------------------------------------------------------------------- Note: this FAQ is updated periodically. Copies posted to the new user newsgroups should be current, but if you found this FAQ somewhere else, please see <http://www.faqs.org/faqs/net-abuse-faq/scams> for the latest version. -- Nick <mailto:tanstaafl@pobox.com>