How to Verify Urban Legends and Email Scams with Snopes
Over the last couple of years there have been dozens of occasions where my mother has shared with me some dire information that she has learned from an email sent to her by a well-meaning friend. Nine times out of 10 the topic of the email message will turn out to be an urban legend.
Actually, now that I think of it, I'm pretty sure that only once has she brought me home a copy of an email warning that turned out to be true. Water can in fact explode in your face if you boil it in the microwave! Sure, it is extremely unlike to happen, and in fact it is only possible if you take the water out of the microwave and hold the cup just under your face, but it can happen.
Urban legends, however, tend to be quite harmless. Sure, they may be a bit of a pain, especially if you are post office employee drowning in millions of greeting cards sent to a kid who recovered from his terminal illness years ago, but hey, at least it keeps people employed! Email scams are an altogether different sort of employment however, the scammy thieving kind.
By now, lots of folks are familiar with the Nigerian email scams, but plenty of others still manage to fall for it, day after day. But letters from foreign dignateries and government lotteries are not the only thing to watch out for in your email.
Be wary of any emails purporting to be coming from places such as Paypal, Amazon, Ebay or your bank. Yes, these places will send you email. No, they will not ask you for your password or any information that can help them access your account.
For safety's sake, simply avoid clicking links in email messages and go and type the website address into your browser instead. Make sure you are running good and up-to-date virus protection software, or even better, run a complete security program on your computer that can prevent against phishing attempts as well.
Also, if it sounds weird, let's face it, it probably isn't true. Do us all a favor and check Snopes first before passing on any forwarded emails to your entire address book, okay? PLEASE! Thank you :)
Get Total Security Online
BitDefender is designed to secure your privacy online and prevent identify theft with its phishing protection and File Vault for private information stored on your computer.
How to Protect Yourself Online
- OnGuard Online - US Govt Website
OnGuard Online provides practical tips from the federal government and the technology industry to help you be on guard against Internet fraud, secure your computer and protect your personal information. Great information about keeping yourself safe.
Where to Verify Email Scams
- Federal Bureau of Investigation - New E-Scams & Warnings
The FBI keeps a running list of the latest email scams that you are likely to run into. Updated frequently. This should be your first stop before sending money to people you don't know. Has lots of tips for how to avoid getting caught by a scam.
- snopes.com: Urban Legends Reference Pages
Snopes covers both Urban Legends and Scams. So it is a one stop source for all kinds of internet communications that sound hinky.
Protect Yourself Online
This Wall Street Journal Guide is short and sweet. It also includes information on what to do if you've already been a victim of identity theft.
Tax Season Scams & Identity Theft
- Internal Revenue Service Info Page on Identity Theft
The IRS website has a whole series of documents on avoiding and spotting identity theft and what to do if you've been a victim. Plus info on what to look for in suspicious emails.
- IRS Phishing and Tax Related Scams - How to Report
Every year around tax time, a ton of new phishing scams are off and running to defraud you of you dollars. The IRS website has details on what to look for and how to report them.
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