How to determine if an e-mail is a hox or an urban legend
Updated November 29, 2016
The information below was provided by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.
It is important to be aware of possible e-mail hoaxes and urban legends. Some e-mail messages are more suspicious than others, but be especially cautious if the message has any of the following characteristics. These characteristics are just guidelines; keep in mind that not every hoax or urban legend has these attributes, and some legitimate messages may have some of these characteristics.
- The message suggests tragic consequences for not performing some action;
- It promises money or gift certificates for performing some action;
- It offers instructions or attachments claiming to protect you from a virus that is undetected by anti-virus software;
- It claims it is not a hoax;
- There are multiple spelling or grammatical errors, or the logic is contradictory;
- There is a statement urging you to forward the message; or
- It has already been forwarded multiple times (evident from the trail of e-mail headers in the body of the message).
If you want to check the validity of an e-mail, the following websites provide information about hoaxes and urban legends:
- Urban Legends and Folklore – urbanlegends.about.com
- Urban Legends Reference Pages – snopes.com
- Truth Or Fiction – truthorfiction.com
- Symantec Security Response Hoaxes – symantec.com/avcenter/hoax.html
- McAfee Security Virus Hoaxes – home.mcafee.com/VirusInfo/VirusHoaxes.aspx