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Help Center > Security Center > Hoax
Security Center How to Avoid Receiving Hoax E-mails

If you are a normal e-mail user, you probably get at least one hoax message per week, forwarded to you by a naive or gullible friend or relative. Some hoax messages are easy to spot, others are not. Perhaps the most difficult ones to ignore and delete are the chain letters concerning missing children. This form of spam is a problem because it appears to be legitimate and, naturally, one wants to assist in the efforts to help find an abducted child.

However, experts believe that using e-mail to inform the public of an abduction is not effective as there is no way to update or recall a message after it starts being randomly blasted across the Internet to hundreds, then thousands and, maybe, millions of online mailboxes.

In some cases, the child is quickly located, but the e-mail takes on a life of its own, spreading around the world via the Internet, and still popping up years later. In other cases, immature individuals create a hoax just for the thrill of getting people excited and anxious, seeing how big a splash they can make as the hoax spreads around the world in days or weeks.

At BreaktheChain.org, web site founder John R. Ratliff says, "Many spammers and scam artists now employ or seek out chain letters...to build their mailing lists. When you forward a ...hoax on to others, you´re putting your e-mail address and likely those of your friends and family out in the wild to be collected. If you´ve been wondering why you get so much unwanted e-mail, the answer may be no further than your "Forward" button. The more junk you send, the more you will receive. Don´t want the junk? Break this chain."

How to Avoid Being Taken In

One of the simplest ways to avoid being taken in by a hoax or participating in a chain e-mail´s distribution is to have comprehensive computer security software like McAfee™ products, which feature a spam filter that screens and segregates spam and phishing e-mail messages. Be sure that whatever software you employ has automatic program and anti-spam rule updates so that your protection is always prepared for current threats.

Another way to handle a potential hoax e-mail that may have slipped past your computer´s spam defense is simply to do some online research. It will only take a few moments. Before you forward an e-mail, do everyone a favor and enter the "missing" child´s name or the subject line into your favorite search engine.

It should be obvious that when you see phrases like "urban legend," "fiction," and "hoax" in the search-result descriptions, you will know not to forward such e-mails. By not adding to the billions of spam messages flying around the Internet into already-bloated e-mail boxes, you are doing everyone a favor and protecting yourself from future hoaxes and scam e-mail.

In summary, take the following precautions to avoid spamming and hoax problems:

  1. Employ comprehensive computer security software that has a spam filter feature, like a product from McAfee.
  2. Before you forward a message, do a little online research to ensure the e-mail is not a hoax.
  3. Avoid forwarding messages because it exposes your e-mail address and your friends´ e-mail addresses to the possibility of ending up on spammers´ mailing lists.

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Article reprinted with permission from McAfee, Inc.

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