It's rather easy to create Internet hoaxes because all you really need is a website building program and an imagination. Heck, if you don't want to spend the time designing an elaborate website, you can just shoot an email out to your friends and watch it fly around the Internet if it's creative enough to get people to believe. While most are for fun, some actually are designed to solicit money. So the next time you are reading a story, if it sounds outrageous, consider that it's quite possible that it is an Internet hoax. The following are some of the more popular ones to appear over the years.
Grizzly Bear World Record
Since 2001, an email filled with text and some pictures has circulated around the Internet of an airman in Alaska being attacked by a 1,600 pound "man-eating grizzly bear" (hoax email, 2001). Apparently the airman was hunting deer and came across this large creature and killed it. One of the photos shows the remains of an unrelated bear attack.
Fact: There was a bear, but it was only about 1,000 pounds…not the record the email leads you to believe.
Poor Toby. Toby is a delightful little bunny who was the victim of a not-so-delightful Internet hoax. The unknown owners of the bunny created a website that claimed they would kill and eat the bunny unless they acquired $50,000 in donations. The website that was created in 2004 was obviously a hoax, but despite that, the owners received a book deal.
Fact: Toby never got eaten.
The Continuingly Missing Penny Brown
Nine years old in 2001, Penny Brown is a perpetually missing girl. Even to this day a chain letter email makes its way around the Internet asking users to keep an eye out for Penny Brown and send any known locations of the girl to the fictional email address, ''email@example.com''.
Fact: Penny Brown does not exist.
Internet Hoaxes Involving Spiders
With wireless internet, even our Armed Forces overseas can get in on the hoax game. For soldiers in the Middle East, camel spiders are the most feared creatures…even before terrorists. Through emails sent from loved ones, soldiers document camel spiders leaping like pro basketball players to latch on to people in order to feed on them. They emit a local anesthetic so you can't feel a thing.
Fact: Camel spiders do exist in the Middle East and in the southwestern United States, but are not venomous or harmful to humans.
''Do Not Call'' List for Cell Phone Users
Since September 2004, you may have received an email warning that cell phone companies were planning to publish a directory of cell phone numbers for everyone to read. Similar to the landline registry, you had a chance to enter your cell phone number into a directory preventing telemarketers from calling you.
Fact: There is no cell phone ''Do Not Call'' registry. Cell phone companies did plan on publishing a directory, but it would be available only for users who called '411' and paid a fee. Don't worry though, the plan to publish this listing has been put on hold, so to speak.
Newest Bug Killer: Listerine
One of the newest Internet hoaxes to circulate is an email reporting that Listerine can be used to kill mosquitoes. The email is a first-hand account of witnessing a friend spray Listerine around the deck as the mosquitoes just died. So the letter writer did the same and "voila! That worked as well." You can also use the generic brand mouthwash.
Fact: Mouthwash is botanically based and contains eucalyptus. While a few may die, there is no scientific evidence to support the claim that mouthwash is an effective bug killer. The liquid would most likely evaporate rather quickly since it is water and alcohol based.
Spotting a Hoax
Spotting an Internet Hoax may seem tough at first, but if you look for the signs, then you won't be one of the believers:
- Be on the lookout for sentences like "This is not a hoax."
- Lots of capital letters and exclamation points are telling signs.
- In an email, if you are asked to forward it to everyone you know, it's probably a hoax, especially if you can't figure out who the original sender is.
- On a fake website, if you can't find contact information, then guess what…it's likely a hoax.
There are unbelievable things on the Internet, so keep your eyes sharp and be wary of those camel spiders.