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Beware Of "Who Is Obama?" Email Hoax

Jan 24, 2008
Election fever (or malaise) is in the air, and with that comes the usual assortment of moronic emails. The latest grammatical atrocity begins:

"Very interesting and something that should be considered in your choice. If you do not ever forward anything else, please forward this to all your contacts...this is very scarey to think of what lies ahead of us here in our own United States...better heed this and pray about it and share it. We checked this out on "snopes". It is factual. Check for yourself."

The message concludes with the usual, "Please forward to everyone you know. Would you want this man leading our country?...... NOT ME!!!"

Observe the less-traditional "e-y" spelling of "scary," courtesy of the braintrusts behind this dim-witted nonsense.

Any time you receive a message of this type that includes a request to forward it to everybody you know, just reach for your DELete key and dispose of it. Chain email is never a reliable source for news or information. And let's face it, you're not the town crier, nor am I. If we forward things like this, we're part of the problem.

Note that the preface to the message states, "We checked this out on snopes. It is factual. Check it for yourself."

Pulleeeze! The knuckle-dragging, mouth-breathers who send this stuff out know that most uninformed recipients will react in knee-jerk fashion and never investigate it themselves. So the senders include a phony-baloney corroboration and unfortunately, that's good enough for some people. If any recipient did invest 20 seconds to check out "Who is Barack Obama?" on http://www.snopes.com, they would find that, of course, it's just a dopey hoax.

It doesn't matter what the body of this type of message says because there are all kinds of hoaxes, framed in a variety of ways, all designed to trick you into perpetuating the hoax by forwarding it to others.

Look for any of the following five "red flags" and you'll be able to identify a hoax just as quickly as it arrives in your inbox.

1. A request to forward it to others. You will never encounter a hoax message that requests that you keep the information to yourself.

2. A message that's alarmist in tone. Look for lots of exclamation marks or wording that suggests a great sense of urgency.

3. Gratuitous corroboration or authentication in order to make the message sound legitimate. References to having checked it with Snopes, or "My brother-in-law's wife's sister knows somebody who works at Microsoft, and Bill Gates said..." Puleeeze!

4. An assertion that something "bad" or untoward will happen if you don't act immediately. That's right, it's YOUR fault if something unfortunate happens. (Guilt is always such a lovely touch.)

5. Lots of "forwarding" marks >>>> indicating that many other individuals have been similarly blessed as recipients. Lucky you.

If you remember nothing else, keep in mind that a hoax will ALWAYS include a request that you forward it to others, so whatever you do, be a good Internet citizen and don't forward it to anybody
About the Author
Mr. Modem (MrModem.com) is an author, syndicated columnist, radio host, and publisher of the wildly popular, always entertaining, Pulitzer-lacking weekly "Ask Mr. Modem" computer-help newsletter. Mr. Modem's columns appear in more than 300 publications and each month in "Smart Computing" magazine. Visit MrModem.com for additional information, to view a sample issue, or to subscribe.
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