In Honor of Being Duped: Our Ten Favorite E-Mail Hoaxes and Scams

Categories: Geek, The Web

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One of the best Internet hoaxes of all time.
Last week, we inadvertently got taken by a Facebook post stating a collection of DVDs at Texas Children's Hospital had been stolen. Turns out, it never happened. Oops.

Sometimes, even the best of us get suckered by hoaxes of all kinds. There is a reason Al Gore someone invented Snopes. It's not just for relatives who think that Swiffer kills dogs or soda is used to clean engine parts. The whole episode got us to thinking about some of our favorite hoaxes perpetrated on unsuspecting web surfers, the best of which came via e-mail -- the best way to fake out a grandparent before Facebook arrived. Here are our favorites.


10. You Won a Cruise!

This was in the earlier days of the Internet when people were a little more trusting and clearly thought e-mail was completely different from phone scams, which had using this old chestnut for years. Like most scams, this was about money, duping many unwitting victims into handing over their credit cards.


9. Kidney Theft in New Orleans

This is a great example of urban legend gone digital. As the story went, someone on vacation woke up in a tub full of ice with a note next to them saying, "Thanks for the kidney" after apparently having one of their organs removed by a surgical thief. We always thought it was nice of them to go to all the trouble of keeping them alive. In the Internet version, travelers were warned that going to NOLA might leave them short a kidney -- the hoax sometimes mentioned Las Vegas as another potential danger spot, which somehow seems realistic if you watch a lot of CSI.


8. Help a Sick Child

Over the years, the idea of raising money to help someone in need has been a popular approach for grifters. The e-mail version of this popular scam, however, wasn't so much about money as it was about perpetuating an actual story. In 1989, nine-year-old Craig Shergold, in an attempt to win a spot in the Guinness Book of World Records, asked people to send him birthday cards. He got more than 30 million! Even when he got healthy, the cards kept coming driven at least in part by the continued e-mails. Other variations on that theme were generated, but nothing close to the original.


7. Going Phishing

Whenever a bank or credit card sends you an e-mail saying it needs you to click a link and put in your login information -- in case you don't know -- do NOT do it. This is what geeks refer to as a "phishing" scam. A fake website is set up to look like the real thing. Once you click the link to the site and enter your info, you just gave crooks access to your cash.


6. Flash Your Lights, Get Shot

The legend described how gangs were using a new initiation rite with young members where they would drive with their lights out. The prospective member was required to kill everyone in the first car that flashed their lights at them. This was, thankfully, not true, but scared the crap out suburban moms everywhere.


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