You know those forwards your aunt Helen or best friend Rob sends you? Sometimes they’re sweet and sappy with cute and cuddly kittens. Other times they’re poems that are supposed to evoke a strong emotional reaction. Sometimes it’s religious or political.
One thing all those emails have in common is that they were forwarded to you and twenty or a hundred other people in the forwarding person’s address book. And that person received it along with fifty or a hundred other people from the person who forwarded it to him. And so on. And so on. And so on.
In fact, some of those forwards have been going around the internet so long that they’re about strategies to fight gas prices from four years ago, or about a kid who was in the hospital and wanted get well cards ten years ago (yes, the internet existed then. 😛 )
Finding out the truth
A lot of times, what’s been forwarded is factually incorrect or incorrectly attributed or with key information missing, or downright false, although some are true.
One of the hallmarks of an urban legend and/or email hoax is that you’re urged to forward it to everyone you know.
If you get such emails, there are sites you can visit that will (usually) tell you the status of the email, whether it’s true, false, unsubstantiated, or what. Sites such as Snopes, ScamBusters, Truth or Fiction, Quackwatch, and more.
Truth be told, you can usually enter the first sentence or two into Google, run a search, and a whole lot of such results will come up. Or, you can go to individual sites to find out.
Sometimes, the forwarded email is a virus warning, purportedly from McAfee or Norton, urging you to forward that email to everyone you know. It’s urgent! Everyone must be warned!
That email itself may either be carrying a virus, either as an attachment or as a macro, or it is, itself a virus.
Consider the behavior of a virus. It might duplicate itself and forward itself to everyone in your address book. It uses up time and resources.
When you forward that hoax virus warning to everyone you know, even if there’s no virus in the email, you yourself have acted like the virus, wasting time and resources. Not just your own, but those of everyone you sent it to, as well.
If the virus is an attachment, then by forwarding the email to everyone you know, you’ve sent them the virus.
If you get such an alert, do not forward it. Instead, go to either McAfee or Norton or another antivirus site and research the virus for yourself. Or, do like me and just hit delete.
And make sure you have a decent antivirus program running on your computer with up to date antiviral definitions. If the antiviral definitions are out of date, then you aren’t protected from any viruses created after that date.
Harvesting email addies
Spammers can use those email forwards to harvest email addies.
Remember how you got that email along with fifty or so other people? And so did the person before you? And the person before that, and so on and so on and so on?
By the time you get that email, you can see hundreds of email addresses of people before you who received that email.
So can the spammers.
That’s how they benefit from the forwarded email. Because people don’t know enough to not pass on the emails, nor do they know enough to use Bcc, or blind carbon copy, when they forward.
See, blind carbon copy hides the email addies of all the other people you sent an email to. You can’t see theirs, they can’t see yours. Makes it much more difficult for a spammer to harvest your email addy.
If you have friends who send you forwards, educate them on blind carbon copy.
Blind carbon copy, or Bcc, is a similar field to To. There’s also Cc, or carbon copy, and should be in the same area. I’ve yet to see an email program that didn’t support it, although it’s not always obviously visible.
That, and run everything they send you past snopes or another urban legends type of site, then email them the results along with a lecture to not send crap like that out.
Believe me, I’ll thank you. 🙂