How To Check a Hoax
by Alex in General / 02.03.09
Chances are highly likely that you have seen this video (or one very much like it), proclaiming that the radiation from four ringing cell phones can pop popcorn. And that is one pretty frightening thought. As the description for the above video states, if your cell phone can do that to popcorn, imagine what it is doing to your brain…
The problem is, this is a hoax. There are hundreds of these types of hoaxes being circulated on internet through video sharing sites, email, and social networks (my mother in law sent me the cell phone/popcorn hoax). Most of them are fairly benign, but every now and then, there are phishing schemes and lies and nasty people trying to separate you from your money, or good name.
So, how do you determine if the sensational story currently being circulated is a hoax? There are several websites that you can turn to in order to determine if the story/video/email is true or not. One of the most well-known websites is snopes.com. Snopes offers the current top 15 legends/hoaxes, in addition to the ability to search. For example, if I type in “cell phone popcorn,” I get back one result, indicating that it is, indeed, false-I cannot cook an egg or popcorn with cell phones.
Another fact-checking website is hoax-slayer.com. Hoax-slayer had been active since 2003, and offers several newsletter options, in addition to articles and a search feature. Hoax-slayer also offers tips on how to spot an email hoax, stating:
“These email hoaxes cover a range of subject matter, including:
- Supposedly free giveaways in exchange for forwarding emails.
- Bogus virus alerts.
- False appeals to help sick children.
- Pointless petitions that lead nowhere and accomplish nothing.
- Dire, and completely fictional, warnings about products, companies, government policies or coming events.
A third site is Hoax Busters. Hoax Busters was featured on the Today Show, offers virus alerts, and an alphabetical listing of common hoaxes. Hoax busters also offers lots of tips to protect your computer from viruses and to help you practice ’safe computing.’
So, before you decide to send all your personal information to an estate manager for a long-lost family member in Kenya (hey, I didn’t even know I had family ties to Kenya!), check your email against the hoaxes on any one of these websites(or maybe all 3, to be on the safe side).