Tech Time: Email Hoaxes

Each day we are bombarded by countless email messages trying to get us to forward messages, act on virus alerts, participate in pointless petitions or worse, give up critical private information. Email hoaxes are at best annoying and at worse dangerous.

In principle, email hoaxes are not new. Many of the most popular hoaxes are in fact just electronic versions of hoaxes which have been making the rounds for decades. What makes them irritating however, is their direct access to us. Your email inbox is littered with false special offers, fictitious warnings and promises of big money. Your mother said (and she was right), if it is too good to be true, it probably is. C'mon, think about it. Why would Bill Gates really want to partner with Walt Disney just to give you money?

According to, the nine most popular hoaxes include:
  • Neiman Marcus's expensive cookie recipe
  • Forwarded e-mail for money or donations
  • Nigerian scam letter
  • Work at home
  • You won! And you didn't even enter!
  • You'll receive $5,000 for sending $25
  • Tricking the traffic court
  • Tax or long-distance charges on e-mail
  • Clinton got rid of IRS -- no more taxes

In Jamaica, we've had a few too. Do you remember the pornographic pictures of the RBTT Bank Teller? She never existed. Well, not as a teller working at a bank in Kingston at least.

So, what should you do if you receive an email that looks suspicious to you? If in doubt, check it out.

Free Giveaways for Forwarding Messages: Before you greedily click that forward button, think about it. Will the person you are sending the email to be annoyed when they open it? Are you likely to be spreading false information? Worst of all, are you wasting time? If your answer is yes to any (or all three) questions, click delete instead.

Something for Almost Nothing: This email promises to provide BIG MONEY if only you send a small transaction fee; most popularly associated with Nigerians or sweepstakes, all you are likely to get is an empty wallet. A slight variation, is the email from a travelling friend who lost their wallet and just needs a little money to get back home. Trust me, if they are lost, they will appreciate a call.

Bogus Virus Alerts: The subject reads, "WORST VIRUS EVER!". That may be so, and you'll be able to prove it with a simple search of a reputable anti-virus software site. The email may contain 'helpful' instructions on how to remove the virus which may end up harming, rather than helping your system.

False Appeals for Sick Children: This is the greatest proof that the virtual world cannot replace the real world. Any legitimate appeal is going to have a phone number, website or other way to make direct contact with the person or organization making the appeal. Be wary of such emails, but don't be callous.

Pointless Petitions: There are lots of sneaking ways that scammers try to get and verify our email address and other related information. Enter, the pointless petition. You may feel motivated to add your name to the ever growing list of cause junkies, but in many cases, all you are doing is giving up your identity to a criminal. If you are really interested in supporting the cause, seek out their website and sign the online petition.

Fictional Product Warnings: KFC is not generically engineering beak-less chickens and deodorant doesn't cause cancer (as far as I know). Please, let's move on.

Phishing for Information: This email has a great disguise. It looks like an official email from your bank or other 'noble' institution asking you to verify your account details. Before you know it, your identity is stolen and your life is in shambles. Banks and other financial institutions are NEVER going to ask you for your personal information via email. Look closely too at links in emails, make sure the address is exactly correct and not just close to the address of the institution the email claims to the representing.

You Think You See Me: Scariest of all is when you get any one of the emails mentioned above from a trusted friend. Trust your friend, not their email. Their system or account may be hacked; with someone else in control, you need to be careful. If it looks odd, pick up the phone and warn your friend, they'll appreciate the heads up.

Tech Target (website to visit):
Play Jamaica is the first online gaming site of its kind, conceptualized, built and maintained for Jamaicans by Jamaicans. The site is family oriented so everyone can play free flash games or tournament games and win prizes. Tournaments start on Monday morning and end on Saturday night with the gamer posting the highest score winning cool prizes (and of course bragging rights).

Sticking to the slogan, 'Simple Games ... Real Winners', the site offers Pakman (my personal favourite), Pong, Space Invaders and Snakes, with more games being added continuously. Right now, all games are free, later gamers will be able to purchase game vouchers right across the island.

Interface with us:
On email:
On SMS: 876-878-FAME (18768783263)

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