Computer Security - Scams & Hoaxes

Whereas a scam is anything that tries to separate you from your money through an email or web site, a hoax is primarily something that tries to make you believe that something is true when it is not. They are both usually delivered to you by way of an email but sometimes you will run across the information on a web site, possibly in an ad on that site.

One of the more frequent scams is often refered to as the Nigerian or 419 scan. This where someone sends out an e-mail saying that someone else needs your help in transfering money out of their country, often Nigeria, and needs your bank account information so they can send the funds to you. For your help, you will receive a portion of the funds. Sometimes, the catch is that in order to setup the transfer, you will need to transfer some money to them first. Often the email starts off saying that you have inherited a large sum of money, won a lottery, or some person wishes to move a large sum of money out of a country. The name "Nigerian Scam" comes from many of these scams coming from Nigeria, especially when they were sent by postal mail.

(NEW - 09-09-2011) Additional similar scams circulating may be from individuals saying that they are represenatives of some branch of any government, or a lottery commission or so on. They say that you are entitled to some large sum of money and that they will help you get it, usually for a finders fee, or transfer fee. However, they will need your bank information, including account number and access information in order to send the money to you. Actually, they want your bank information to take money out of your account.

(NEW - 09-09-2011) Another scam is where you receive an email asking you to halp someone recover money owed them. They will send you a check and ask you to deposit it, returning to them the money, less a "finders fee" for you to keep for you helping them. Usually, the check is bad and doesn't bounce until you send the money away, leaving you to pay not only the bounced check charges but the balance of the money as well.

Many popular hoaxes center around getting people to pass on an e-mail saying that some company is monitoring and that company will supposedly pay those who pass on the e-mail some reward for doing so. The capability to do this does not exist at this time! Some of the more popular versions of this hoax have very well known names attached to them, such as Microsoft, Disney and so on.

Other hoaxes involve missing people, terminally ill kids, new virusus and just about anything else possible. If sounds too good to be true or if you are just not sure, please check it out on one of the following web sites that specialize in uncovering hoaxes. While many people believe that it is better to pass on something that is not true rather than miss something, those emails will not only confuse those who receive them but also slow down the email servers.

As this web page is updated, we will continue to explore this topic and some of the better known hoaxes. For now, don't believe everything you read. If something sounds too good to be true, it probably is. The links on this page will take you to several good places to check on possible hoaxes. The last three links are articles from AARP and PC World about some hoaxes.

If you receive any unsolicited offer, opportunity, or notification, or just an email you would like to check on the contents of, run a Google search on it or investigate it on the web sites that follow:

Please choose from the the following links:
NCL's National Fraud Information Center-Internet Fraud Watch
HoaxBusters - The BIG LIST of Internet Hoaxes
Scambusters - Internet Scams, Urban Legenda and more
Snopes - Urban Legends Reference Pages
Urban Legends - Nigerian Scam (Snopes)
TruthOrFiction - your Email Reality Check Truth About Computer Virus Myths

PC World Article: "Devious Internet Hoaxes"
PC World Article: "The Worst Internet Hoaxes"