Internet Hoaxes

There are many unscrupulous people on the internet that will try to trick unsuspecting individuals into providing private information to them in an attempt to steal from them or con them out of money. There are many types of internet scams and hoaxes. Where items are shown in bold below, and it says “Alarms should go off”, it should be observed that anytime these conditions exist in any communication, the receiver of the communication should be wary.

Types of Scams

  • Letter from a rich person in a foreign country where someone needs your bank account information to transfer money out of their country before they come to your country. This scam appeals to your sense of greed (Alarms should go off) and possibly a desire to help others. This scam usually offers a large percentage of the money transferred. You will later be required to provide enough information for the con artists to steal from your account and/or you will need to pay money to get the transactions to go through.
  • You receive an email from your bank, paypal, or eBay telling you that you must provide your personal account information to use your account. They may use a scare tactic (Alarms should go off) such as telling you that someone tried to break into your account. They may direct you to a link that looks like a legitimate address but is disguised and actually takes you to the scammer’s site so they can get your account login information. This is an attempt to break into your account to steal money from it.
  • You receive an email from Microsoft or a software vendor telling you that you need to apply the operating system patch contained (No legitimate and worthwhile software vendor would ever send software patches through email without talking to you first) in the attachment. This is an attempt to take over your computer with a virus or some other malware.
  • You receive an email from a friend or a company that creates anti-virus software telling you that you have a virus and that you must open and run the attached program to remove the virus. Again, no self respecting antivirus company would send a virus removal tool through email without contacting you first. Anti-virus removal tools for specific viruses can easily be found and download from the anti-virus removal tool creator’s website. Emails like this are an attempt to take over your computer with a virus or some other malware.
  • You receive an email from your system administrator telling you to run the attached program. Usually your email ends with a closing like “Your Domainname Team”. This is an attempt, usually by a virus, to infect and get control of your computer.
  • You receive an email from the government or a law enforcement agency telling you that “you are in trouble”, or “you have done something wrong”. You must open the attachment for more details. Again, this is a scare tactic (Alarms should go off). Why didn’t they just say what they had to say in the body of the email? Why did they put it in an attachment? You should get suspicious and alarms should go off.

In all the above cases, you should check the internet mail headers to get some idea who really sent the email. If you open the attachment, you should detach it first and save it on your hard drive, then scan it for viruses. If the file is in compressed zipped format, you should scan it, unzip it, and scan it again before opening it.

This is in no way nearly a complete list of scams and hoaxes and readers should check the websites in our Internet Fraud and Hoaxes Section to find out if an advertisement or email that they have seen if a fraud or hoax. Always be suspicious when private information or money is involved on the internet especially when the item you are reading was not requested by you.


Internet hoaxes are mainly geared to cause confusion and fear. Sometimes emails are sent warning
about a terrible virus and telling you that you should warn everyone you know. Before responding to these types of emails or taking any action regarding them, you should check with one or more of:

  • A anti-virus product creator to see if there is a virus alert about the virus mentioned in the email. If the name of the virus is not mentioned in the email, then the warning is unlikely to be legitimate.
  • Check with hoax sites such as Hoaxbusters to see if the email is a hoax.
  • Check with your Information Technology department or system administrator to see if it is a hoax. If it is a hoax, they will most likely instruct you to delete the email.

Types of Hoaxes

  • Virus Warnings – A scare tactic (Alarms should go off).
  • Warning indicating that you have a virus and must delete a file from your computer. Another scare tactic (Alarms should go off). If you delete a system file at the suggestion of someone you don’t even know then you should gladly pay to have your system fixed or re-installed.
  • Chain letter appealing to greed (Alarms should go off). They try to get you to send emails to as many people as possible.
  • Urban legends – A story hoax about a bad event that has happened or is happening. It may warn people not to buy a product such as bananas or avoid doing something during certain periods of time. Sometimes the stories are so outlandish that they are hilarious to anyone who has any knowledge about the subject the story is about.
  • Offers to give away items, trips, property timesharing, cruises, or money. This appeals to your sense of greed (Alarms should go off)
  • Sympathy letter about a dying person indicating that if they forward the letter to enough people someone will donate money to help an associated charity.