MacMost Now 83: Urban Legend Emails

Gary Rosenzweig looks at those emails you get forwarded that present urban legends as truth: gas price boycotts, social security changes, store bankruptcies, microwaving water, etc. Check out snopes.com and scambusters.org when you get these emails.

Video Transcript
Hi this is Gary with another episode of MacMost Now. Hold on a second, looks like Bill Gates is giving away money and all I need to do is pass this email along to 10 of my friends. Just give me a minute.
So we all get emails like this. Bill Gates is giving away some money, social security's gonna change, some stores are going out of business better use the gift cards now, maybe a way to get back at the oil companies for raising gas prices. A lot of these emails go around all the time. How do you find out which ones are real and which ones aren't?
The first site I usually go to when I get one of these emails is snopes.com and this is a great site. It lists just about every email that goes around of this nature. One of the things you can do is just simply type something in. so for instance, type in gas prices in the search box and you'll get a lot of different things about emails that people send around having to do with gas prices: petitions, there's you know, the gas out type of thing where you are not supposed to buy gas for a particular day. You can usually find anything from any subject here.
It's important to realize that almost all of the emails of this nature are false. There's tons of that information out there, and it's very tricky because there's really no ulterior motive for most of these emails, they're just false information getting spread around. Usually it starts as a practical joke and then spins out of control.
Another site I visit is scambusters.org. Now, this deals with the same type of urban legend emails that snopes deals with, but also does a lot of stuff to protect you against the emails that are dangerous, the ones that are actually scams.
The best rule of thumb when getting any of these emails is be skeptical. Most of them are false, so assume it's false, try to look it up. These sites like scambusters and snopes will actually tell you if the email is in fact true. They'll research it for you.
Don't attach any credibility to the emails just because of who they came from. The person who sent it to you could be somebody you know and trust, and is very reliable, but they sent it to you without actually checking any of the information and they figure, well, better be safe than sorry and send you this warning email anyway.
And there is some damage that can be done by some of these emails. First of all they clog up our inboxes just as bad as spam does. Second of all, sometimes the information in them can be harmful. For instance a recent one that went around saying that a lot of retail stores were going bankrupt and you better use your gift cards listed a few stores that actually weren't going bankrupt at all, and I can't imagine that email going around was any good for their stock.
And with this being a presidential election year, there are a lot of these political emails going around with just false information about all the candidates. So you definitely want to check it out and don't take these emails at face value.
You could also use Google to search for information about some of these false emails. Just take a piece of text from the email or subject of the email and search for it in Google to see if anybody has talked about it in various blogs. And you could also put in the word email and scam inside the search field to see if that helps narrow your search field some more. But also be warned that some of these emails now have made their ways into blogs. Bloggers who get these emails then go and blog about them. So be careful about what you're reading in blogs as well as what you read in emails.
What's interesting is when you check out snopes for some of these emails you find out these emails aren't new at all. A lot of them date back more than a decade and the names and situations have changed a little bit over the years. But it's incredible to find out something you think is breaking news is actually very old news and, false at that.
So arm yourself with skepticism, visit those two websites and read about a lot of these urban legend emails that go around. And then go and tell your friends and relatives, you know the ones, about them and how they can check them out at these websites. 'Til next time, this is Gary Rosenzweig at MacMost Now.