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If you receive an e-mail that warns you of a terrible virus or some other digital demon and asks you to send the message on to everybody you know, DONíT DO IT! Itís probably just a hoax. The Internet is crawling with hoaxes, scams, virtual chain letters and related nonsense.

Donít be part of the problem by assuming any such warning is true. Instead, assume itís false unless you can prove it to be true by using any of the reliable Web-based resources listed below. And once you confirm that it is a hoax, notify the person who sent you the warning message! Send them the URL (Web address) of the resource you used to confirm the hoax. In addition, tell them to visit Mr. Modem's Library ( and obtain a copy of this article.

Watch for the Red Flags

A hoax e-mail will display one or more of the following characteristics. Commit them to memory and consider them red flags when they appear in a warning-type message:

1. A great urgency! Youíll usually see lots of exclamation points and capitalization: The Subject line will typically be something like: WARNING!!!! URGENT!!!!!! PASS THIS MESSAGE ON!!!!

2. There will always be a request that you share this ďimportantĒ warning by forwarding the message to everybody in your e-mail address book or as many people as you possibly can. This one characteristic alone is a sure-fire sign that the message is a hoax.

By asking you to forward the message to everybody in your address book, the perpetrators are appealing to your sense of community, your willingness to help and protect others, and the fact that most people love to share Internet-related news. Letís face it, weíre all human and the worse the news, the more fun it is to share!

3. Look for some form of corroboration -- a quote (always fictitious) from an executive (real or not) of a major corporation, a government agency official, etc. Sometimes the message will include a sincere-sounding premise, something like, ďMy neighbor, who works for Microsoft, just received this warning so I know itís true. He asked me to pass this along to as many people as I can.Ē Remember, itís all a bunch of baloney. Donít believe it for a second!

4. The prediction of some type of dire consequence if you don't act immediately and don't notify as many people as you possibly can. The message may inform you that the virus will destroy your hard drive, kill your house plants or cause the food to spoil in your refrigerator. Whatever it is, you will be warned that something very dramatic will happen as a result of this reported evil. After all, it wouldnít be much of a hoax if it didnít push your buttons!

5. Look for lots of >>>>> marks in the left margin. Thatís an indication that the message has been forwarded countless times by other individuals who have been suckered into the hoax before it reached you.

Enjoying this article? Then why not subscribe to Mr. Modem's Weekly Newsletter ( today! Computer tips, tricks, virus alerts, hoax information, plus prompt, personal responses to your computer questions!

The following is an actual hoax e-mail, one thatís been in circulation for a long time, but one that reels in new victims on a daily basis:


Someone is sending out a very cute screensaver of the Budweiser Frogs. If you download it, you will lose everything! Your hard drive will crash and someone from the Internet will get your screen name and password!


It just went into circulation yesterday. Please distribute this message. This is a new, very malicious virus and not many people know about it. This information was announced yesterday morning from Microsoft. Please share it with everyone that might access the Internet.

Once again, pass this along to EVERYONE in your address book
so that this may be stopped. AOL has said that this is a very dangerous virus and that there is NO remedy for it at this time.

Pretty silly, isnít it? Yet hundreds of thousands of people have forwarded this ďBudweiser FrogĒ virus hoax to others thus keeping it alive and in circulation for years.

So the next time you receive an alarming e-mail calling you to action, look for any of the characteristics I mentioned above and before even thinking about sending it along to anybody else, check any of the following reliable Web sites:

McAfee Virus Information Library

A Public Service of the U.S. Dept. of Energy

Online Rumors, Hoaxes and Urban Legends

Internet Fraud

Virus Hoax Warnings
The truth about computer virus myths and hoaxes.

Symantec AntiVirus Research Center
Online Encyclopedia of Viruses

Urban Legends Reference Page

World Wide Scam Network

Before You Forward Email

If you confirm that the warning message you received is true, please
read the following BEFORE you forward e-mail to anybody.

Have you ever received an e-mail thatís been forwarded to many individuals before you, so you see oodles (term of art) of e-mail addresses of other recipients listed in the header of the e-mail? Thatís not a good thing at all and should be avoided in order to protect the personal property (e-mail address) of each individual on that mailing list.

Most of the people whose e-mail addresses appear did not ask to have their e-mail addresses published and circulated throughout the Internet. Keep that in mind if youíre planning to forward an e-mail to everybody in your personal e-mail address book. Not only did the people in your e-mail address book not grant you permission to publish their address, but why would you want to share your personal address book with the Internet world at large? Chances are, you donít.

By placing your intended recipient e-mail addresses in the CC field (Carbon Copy or Cyber Copy, in todayís parlance) and thereby making them visible to all recipients, your mailing list can easily be copied, sold, or used by others, all without the permission of the recipients. The inevitable result is even more junk e-mail (spam) than people are generally receiving today. Donít be part of the problem; be part of the solution!

How to Avoid Displaying E-mail Addresses

Most email programs provide a BCC address field. The BCC field exists for the purpose "hiding" recipients' email addresses from public view. So if youíre forwarding e-mail or sending e-mail to multiple recipients, always use the BCC field instead of the CC field if you donít want every recipient to see every other recipientís e-mail address.

Older versions of AOL (America Online) software don't have a BCC field. If you're using one of these programs, you might want to consider updating your software, first and foremost, but short of that, be sure to place all e-mail addresses in parentheses, each address separated by a comma. Example: (, This will hide the addresses from public view.

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