A hoax can best be defined as a deliberate attempt to trick people into believing or something to be real. Internet hoaxes are no different. If you’ve received any mails claiming that you’ve won millions in some random foreign lottery (with the key to receiving these millions being to pay some money up front), you’ll know what we mean. The perpetrators behind these messages want nothing more than for you to mail them your credit card/bank account numbers.
The best way to spot hoaxes is a good dose of common sense. As the saying goes, “If it sounds too good to be true, it usually is”. The Internet Crime Complaint Center, Federal Trade Commission and Better Business Bureau all recommend the
following tips for protecting your personal info.
- Do not respond to the scam email, click on links, or open attachments, which could leave your computer at risk for viruses.
- If the email appears to have come from a company, check their web site to see if they’ve addressed any scams using their name, and contact the Better Business Bureau to find out if there have been any complaints about such a scam.
In case you’ve responded to what you believe was a scam, then make sure to contact your bank immediately and ask what steps you should take to protect your money. You should also review your free credit report to monitor your active accounts, mortgages, and other financial information. Always treat email solicitations with skepticism, since there’s no way to avoid receiving these mails. If you didn’t remember signing up for a service or contest, then you probably didn’t. Reputable financial institutions never prompt you for account information via email, but if you’re unsure about whether you need to provide extra info to a company you deal with, always contact them directly. Another kind of hoax is the infamous chain letter. These try to persuade the recipient to forward the letter to as many people as possible by using emotional stories or get-rich-quick schemes. There’s also the threat of physical violence or bad luck if one attempts to break the chain. It can often become difficult to tell the difference between chain letters and real correspondence, since it’s not uncommon for people to treat it like a game. Chain letters are widely popular on sites such as Orkut and Youtube, with some comments prompting the user to copy and paste a link to get secret information. Naturally, you should never follow such links nor open any attachments that come with chain letters since they can contain trojans.