TELECOM Digest OnLine - Sorted: Re: State of the Internet, 2005

Re: State of the Internet, 2005
Sat, 1 Oct 2005 20:01:55 EDT

In a message dated 10/1/05 14:28:36 EDT14:28:36 EDT, writes:

> Hoaxes, rumors and urban legends

> Bill Gates is giving away free money! Muggers at malls are using
> perfume to render victims unconscious! A cafe at an upscale department
> store charged a woman $250 for a cookie recipe! Urban legends like
> these make the rounds of inboxes every day, and every day someone is
> duped into believing the rumor and forwarding it.

> According to, which identifies and tracks urban legends,
> the Bill Gates rumor, which began making the rounds in 1997, is still
> the most circulated urban legend on the Internet.

> Experts advise checking your facts before forwarding messages to your
> friends and family. Want to know if an item is true? Check out one of
> the many Web sites devoted to investigating and debunking urban myths
> and legends.

Urban legends far predate the internet. The hoax or urban legend about
the Neiman-Marcus restaurant charging $250 for a cookie recipe goes back at
least a generation or two before the internet.

> Chain letters

> "Forward this message to 10 people and DO NOT BREAK THE CHAIN!" the
> writer implores. Messages like these have been pouring into inboxes since
> the inception of e-mail -- taking the old-fashioned chain letter from the
> post office to cyberspace. Chain letters are a particularly annoying form of
> spam because they often come from friends and promise negative consequences
> for not forwarding the message (bad luck or a lost chance at riches, for
> example).

> Choosing to forward a message, however, could get you in trouble. Many
> people don't know it is illegal to start or forward an e-mail chain letter
> that promises any kind of return. Anyone doing so could be prosecuted for
> mail fraud.

Chain letters were common at least as far back as the Depression years
(1930s) and were just as illegal then, proliferating by U.S. mail.

> Phishing:

> The messages look official, down to the spoofed e-mail addresses in
> the from line, but if the message asks for personal information such
> as credit card or Social Security numbers, chances are it's a
> fake. Phishing schemes trick users into revealing personal
> information, and scammers use this data to steal the identities of
> their victims.

> A 2004 study by the Internet Crime Complaint Center found that e-mail
> and Web pages are the two primary ways in which fraudulent contact
> takes place. The Federal Trade Commission recommends avoiding filling
> out forms that come in e-mail messages and that users never e-mail
> personal or financial information.

Studies focusing not just on the internet but on the world as whole
indicate that stealing personal information by other means, especially
"dumpster diving" and other stealing of information on paper or by
personal contact are seven or eight times more prevalent than fraud by

Frauds and annoyances did not start with the internet. The internet
just provided another medium for carrying them out.

Wes Leatherock

[TELECOM Digest Editor's Note: You are quite correct that all of these
evils did not begin with internet; all the internet did was increase
their velocity; make them easier to pull off and remain aloof from
where punishment is concerned. And I was one of the first people,
twenty or so years ago, when people -- parents let's say -- were
fussing about the junk on the internet and how their kids were getting
'more educated and mature' (to put it politely) than was appropriate
for their ages to defend the internet. I told people, if you can get
the information in a library, then there is no reason you ought not to
be able to get it on the internet. Of course, the catch was, no one
would go to the library and spend hours in dusty stacks and shelves
looking for material not age appropriate when they could spend five
minutes or less and a few key strokes to get the same information, and
I _still_ feel that way; but even the library does not allow folks to
just walk in and deface the place, leave junk all over, as people
to willingingly on the internet these days. PAT]

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