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Urban Email Legends
Urban Email Legends

Remember . . . Only You Can Prevent Gullibility


1. Big companies don't do business via chain letters. 

Bill Gates is not giving you $1000. Disney is not giving you a free vacation. There is no baby food company issuing class-action checks. MTV will not give you backstage passes if you forward something to the most people. No one is giving away a car. You can relax; there is no need to pass it on "just in case it's true". And, remember, just because someone said in a message, four generations back, that "we checked it out and it's legit", does not actually make it true. 

2. Your kidney is safe.

There is no kidney theft ring in New Orleans. No one is waking up in a bathtub full of ice, even if a friend of a friend swears it happened to their cousin. If you are hell-bent on believing the kidney-theft ring stories, please see: The Kidney Snatchers on About.com. 

"The National Kidney Foundation has repeatedly issued requests for actual victims of organ thieves to come forward and tell their stories. None have."

That's "none" as in zero, zip, zilch, nada. Not even your friend's cousin. 

3. Neiman Marcus doesn't sell a $200 cookie recipe. 

And even if they do, we all have it. And even if you don't, you can get a copy at: The Neiman Marcus Cookie Story. Then, if you make the recipe, decide the cookies are that awesome, feel free to pass the recipe on. 

4. News doesn't arrive first by chain letter.

If the latest NASA rocket disaster(s) did contain plutonium that went to particulate over the eastern seaboard, do you really think this information would reach the public first via an AOL chainletter? 

5. There is no "Good Times" virus. 

In fact, you should never, ever, ever forward any email containing any virus warning unless you first confirm that an actual site of an actual company that actually deals with viruses. I like the Symantec Anti-Virus Research Center. They also have a great page on Virus Hoaxes

6. Flashing your lights is not dangerous.

There is no gang initiation plot to murder any motorist who flashes headlights at another car driving at night without lights. This rumor has been around for years and the internet has helped it spread. See Flash Your Lights and Die.

7. You can save your business card.

Craig Shergold (or Sherwood, or Sherman, or even Graig Shelford) in england is not dying of cancer or anything else at this time and would like everyone to stop sending him their business cards. He apparently is no longer a "little boy" either. In 1989 he was 9. And he wanted greeting cards. And the 16 million he received landed him in the record book and eventually landed the sympathy of a philanthropist who help him receive an operation. Now over 21 years old, Craig can't stop the flood. See A User's Guide to Craig Shergold and also the recent sighting.

8. The Make A Wish Foundation doesn't use chain letters.

The "Make a Wish" foundation is a real organization doing fine work, but they have had to establish a special web page just to deal with the large number of Internet hoaxes using their good name and reputation. It is distracting them from the important work they do. They write:

The time and expense required to respond to these inquiries distracts the Foundation from its efforts on behalf of children with life-threatening illnesses, and more importantly, divulges information that is potentially harmful to a child and his or her family. (Make A Wish Chain Letter Page

9. Women are suffering, but email chain letters won't help.

Yes, women really are suffering in Afghanistan. And other lots of other worthy causes need your attention too. But forwarding an email won't help these causes in the least. If you want to help, contact your local legislative representative, or get in touch with Amnesty International or the Red Cross. Because email "signatures" are easily faked and mean nothing to anyone with any power to do anything about whatever the petition is complaining about. 

10. Procter and Gamble is not part of a satanic cult or scheme, and its logo is not satanic.

And their president has never appeared on Sally Jesse Raphael to claim support for the Church of Satan. He also didn't appear on Donahue 5 years earlier. Though these rumors have circulated for over 25 years they are completely bogus. See P&G Avows Satanism on Sally Jesse Raphael.

11. Long-distance companies are not about to start charging for the internet.

The first rumor was that the FCC had ruled that they can. When this rumor died, the new rumor showed up: that there is a bill pending before Congress (or in Canada) that will allow long-distance companies to charge you for using the Internet. Interestingly, both the US and Canadian versions of this email hoax list the same name for the Congressman or Canadian MP supposedly sponsoring the bill and list the same bill number (which doesn't coincide with either country's bill numbering systems). 

12. If you're using Outlook, Ie, or Netscape to write email, turn off the "HTML encoding". 

People who read email using UNIX can't read it, and generally don't care enough to save the attachment and then view it with a web browser, since you're probably forwarding them a copy of the Neiman Marcus Cookie Recipe anyway. Unless you know that the recipient can read HTML on their email client and also prefers it, use plain text.

13. Trim the headers and use BCC.

If you still absolutely must forward that 10th-generation message from a friend, at least have the decency to trim the eight miles of headers showing everyone else who's received it over the last 6 months. And when you forward it, use the BCC feature of your email. It also wouldn't hurt to get rid of all the ">" that begin each line either. Besides, if it has gone around that many times the people you are about to forward it to have probably already seen it. 

Bottom Line

Composing email or posting something on the net is as easy as writing on the walls of a public restroom. Don't automatically believe it until it's proven false. Instead, assume it's false, unless there is proof that it's true. Before you forward anything to everybody in your address book, check it out at About.com Urban Legends and Folklore.

One Last Thing . . .

Be sure to forward this message to ten friends, and peace, tranquility and good fortune will be yours forever.

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This page created:
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Fri, 25.Oct.2002

Last updated:
16:21, Sat, 10.May.2014

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urban email legends;  proctor & gamble satan; good times virus; flashing lights; neiman marcus cookie recipe; business card; make a wish foundation; long-distance internet; kidney theft; qwerty . . . urban email legends;  proctor & gamble satan; good times virus; flashing lights; neiman marcus cookie recipe; business card; make a wish foundation; long-distance internet; kidney theft; qwerty