Legends, Internet Hoaxes
There are so many nice people in Nigeria wanting
to give me millions of dollars. Almost every day I
receive their kind offers via e-mail. Usually
there's some sort of intrigue attached and if they
can just use my bank account to stash their
millions of dollars, they will give me 15
Let the dupes be duped, but not me. I'm no
dupe--I know the truth. Nobody in Nigeria is going
to give me millions.
Still, I have been duped occasionally. I did,
for example, believe the story that went around
about the gauge of modern day railroad tracks being
determined by the specs for Roman war chariots (the
width of two horses' behinds).
It was a great story, and I was almost
disappointed when Snopes set me straight. Snopes is
the king of the debunkers. Snopes knows the
You can find a large collection of urban legends
with each judged as true or false. Take the old
story about two college students skipping class,
missing an exam, claiming they had a flat tire, and
begging the professor for a makeup exam. The
professor puts them in separate rooms and
administers the exam, which has one question:
"Which tire?" It's a great story, and didn't really
happen. Nor is it true that Nostradamus predicted
the 9/11 tragedy.
Sometimes, however, Snopes determines that
they're true, such as the legend that sets up the
plot in the movie "Good Will Hunting." According to
the legend, a student comes late to math class and
finds two problems on the blackboard. He assumes
they're homework problems and writes them down in
his notebook. He works on the equations and turns
them in to his professor. Later the professor comes
to the student and has written up the solutions for
publication. It turns out that two problems weren't
a homework assignment--they were problems that had
been thought to be unsolvable, and the professor
had written them on the board as examples. Really
happened, and Snopes gives the details.
I actually know someone who was fooled by a
Nigerian scam. Some years ago It was visited upon a
local church in the city where I'm originally from.
When I was there on vacation, I read the wonderful
news in the weekly church bulletin that one of the
priests was going to be traveling to Nigeria to
collect millions of dollars from an anonymous
donor. He went, and there was no money. The good
Lord giveth, and the good Lord taketh away.
You'll never be fooled if you visit Scambusters.
You can find out the details about the Nigerian
scams, as well as hundreds of others. Check out the
list of Top
10 scams for the past year. They range from
herbal Viagra to WTC scams.
Also be sure to check out the Latest
Urban Legends link, an excellent and
comprehensive list of urban legends that typically
come via e-mail. These range from the legend of the
kidney thieves, the Nieman Marcus cookie recipe,
phony virus warnings, and more--all of which have
arrived in my e-mail. And they're all hoaxes.
A number of my acquaintances have been fooled by
virus hoaxes. I get a breathless message sent in
haste to every person in his or her address book
apologizing for having sent a virus and asking them
to delete a file named "jdbgmgr.exe." The message
typically reads, "See the information below. It
says jdbgmgr.exe is a virus and should be deleted
immediately. I found it on my computer, and
according to the information, I've passed this
virus along to everyone in my address book."
This is typically followed by an embarrassed
message that typically reads. "I'm sorry. I found
it out was a hoax. That file is part of Microsoft
You can learn about hoaxes like this at
A search on "jdbgmgr.exe." brings up information
about this hoax as well as telling you how to
replace the file once you've deleted it. This is
one of the best sites to check for virus hoaxes.
It's true that viruses come via e-mail (I get Klez
several times a day), but more often the warnings
that burst around the Internet are baseless, such
as the famous Good Times and Join the Crew hoaxes,
both of which unwitting friends have passed on to
me many times.
But I don't mind. I like getting e-mail. And
these people are, after all, concerned for my
welfare. They're also dupes. Don't be one of
them--check out these sites today.
© 2001 by Jim Karpen, Ph.D.