At the heart of most scams is the Hoax, the great lie at the center of the scheme to make money or spread chaos. It’s the easiest thing in the world for a con artist to send an e-mail that looks legitimate and plays upon victims greatest hopes and fears doesn’t mean it’s true. South Africa is a little bit behind the world when it comes to connection speeds and connectivity, but has been improving and expanding in recent times. More people in South Africa will be using the internet than ever before. For this reason its important that South Africans are aware of the biggest lies on the internet.
This Top 10 list contains some of the most devious hoaxes and scams in Internet History:
1. Virus Warning Hoaxes: These hoaxes are nearly as bad as the real thing. Even the threat of a computer virus is enough to throw many PC users into a panic, frantically forwarding the bogus advisory to everyone they know, bogging down mail servers. Among the 1st of these phony bulletins warned recipients not to read or download any files with the name ‘Good Times’.
2. Help a Sick Child Hoax: The various incarnations of this hoax involve forwarding the e-mail message to others. In return, the American Cancer Society, a hospital, or another medical organization will donate anywhere from a few cents to a dollar to the non-existent child.
3. Then Generous Millionaire Hoax: Bill Gates, Walt Disney Jr. (who is fictional), The Gap, Victoria’s Secret and AOL is contacting you personally and wants to give you money! Naturally, there will be some forwarding of e-mail involved.
4. Dial-a-Hoax: This is a scam turned hoax. Victims are tricked by an e-mail message requesting payment of an “outstanding account” and demanded that recipients call a number with a 809 area code (a Caribbean prefix) to clear things up. There were other area codes used in the scam: 242 (Bahamas), 284 (British Virgin Islands), and 787 (Puerto Rico). People who call the number then incur $25 per minute phone charges.
5. Nigerian Scams: Victims receive as so-called urgent and confidential message from a so-called Nigerian government official who is contacting them in order to bypass some local bureaucratic mix-up. He claims he wants to deposit millions of dollars in your bank account. All he needs is your name and bank account number. It’s all bogus, of course. This is a multi-billion dollar con.
6. Save PBS Hoax: Public Broadcasting needs public support to keep delivering its programming. This hoax fakes a professionally written plea asking not for money, but simply that the recipient forward the message. Beware of e-mail petitions.
7. The $250 Cookie Recipe: The hoax goes like this: Someone ate a cookie for dessert at a restaurant in a major retail store. The customer asked for the recipe, and was charged $250 for it (not “$2.50,” as expected). It’s not true, or even an interesting lie, so don’t even bother forwarding it.
8. Deadly Deodorant: It’s not just deodorant that has been maligned by this hoax. Toothpaste and shampoo are targets as well. Just because a doctor says something is dangerous doesn’t mean it is, so check with government agencies or your GP before panicking.
9. Last Photo From the World Trade Center Deck Hoax: 9/11 has spawned many hoaxes, some bigger than others. One is supposedly a photo from the observation deck a split second before an airliner crashed into it. Some gullible folks have even been conned into buying the non-existent photo.
10. E-Mail Tax: There is no proposed tax on e-mails. There is the issue of Net Neutrality, but that isn’t a tax or a hoax.
If you have another Internet lie worthy of being mentioned on this list, please comment on this post. If you have been a victim of scam or if you want to report a scam please e-mail us at email@example.com and provide us with an account of your experience. Include the phone number / e-mail address of the persons involved if possible. Also check out the other scam warnings on the Junk Mail blog in the Safety & Security section.