How do you recognize a hoax? Without researching the claims made in a forwarded email there's no sure way to tell it if it's a hoax, but if the sender is demanding that you “Forward this to everyone you know”, the odds are close to 100% it’s a hoax! Virus hoaxes and myths waste time and money - and can make the sender look foolish. Some signs to look for:
Look for statements like “This is NOT a hoax”. They typically mean the opposite – and sound a lot like “I am NOT a crook!”.
*Watch for overly emphatic language, as well as frequent use of UPPERCASE LETTERS and multiple exclamation points!!!!!!!
*If the email seems aimed more at persuading than informing the reader, be suspicious. Hoax email writers are more interested in getting people wound up than communicating accurate information.
*If the message claims to give you urgent information that you've never heard of before or read elsewhere from a legitimate source, be very suspicious.
*Check for references to outside sources of information. Even this isn’t foolproof – many hoax emails now refer you to snopes.com, a very good reference for hoaxes and urban legends. Unfortunately, for the most part, the article the email writer refers you to is NOT really referring to the exact threat in the email.
Just about every email chain letter you receive is more likely to be false than true. You should automatically be skeptical of chain letters.
Hoaxers usually try every means available to make their lies believable – such as mimicking a real antivirus alert, attributing the text to a trusted source (known as “False Authority Syndrome), or implying that powerful corporations (Microsoft, for instance) or the government has tried and failed to keep this a secret.
Be especially suspicious of health-related alerts. Never act on medical information forwarded from unknown sources without first verifying its accuracy with a doctor or other reliable source.