Thanks to email, most of us constantly receive electronic missives that relate to some sort of emerging virus that will cause your hard drive to blow up, some type of dirt on a celebrity or other public figure, or activities of a government, religion, or company that are considered contrary to the morals and ethics of right-thinking human beings. Most of the time, these patently false emails are forwarding on by people who believe them to be true. Fortunately, there are ways to check out any email hoax and put your mind at ease.
Step 1: Pay a visit to Snopes.com.
This handy site tracks down the facts on all sorts of urban legends, whether they be about the girl who cooked her cat in a microwave oven to a new email virus that is destroying computers all over the world. Snopes can provide you with up to the minute information regarding the truth, or lack thereof, regarding that alarming email you received. Often, the site includes links to other online references that either prove the veracity of the email’s content, or dismiss the content as nothing more than junk.
Step 2: Search forums and discussion boards.
Most have a search feature that will allow you to copy and paste a portion of the email text, then look for any discussions that have that string of words in the posts. This is often a helpful way of getting to the bottom of email scams and hoaxes if you find nothing on Snopes.
Step 3: Plug the text directly into your search engine.
Simply copy and paste the text from the email into your search engine, then let it scour the Internet for similar hits. The results can be extremely helpful. For example, if the email is a warning about a new virus making the rounds, the search results will often include links to web sites that not only identify the virus but also offer instructions in how to get rid of it.
Step 4: Check out the news.
If the hoax has created enough buzz around the world, online news services may have a story or two that is relevant to the email you received. Stay with reliable sources such as BBC News, APR, or others that have a reputation for reporting facts with as little embellishment as possible.
Tips and Warnings
Don’t put too much faith into an email describing some sort of sensational event or bit of gossip the first time you read it. Definitely don’t pass it along until you have investigated the content and determined whether it is the truth or just a bunch of worthless propaganda or other some other type of hooey. Make sure to let the sender know what you found out, so he or she will be wary of forwarding those alarmist emails in the future, at least until the content is verified to be true.