Posted by: Jo Duxbury | 31 March 2009

Check it before you forward it

We’ve all had them: those emails that warn you of the latest scams, that ask for help for a terminally ill child, that warn that a charity (usually the SPCA in South Africa) that’s on the brink of closure… not to mention those that promise you a free computer / case of champagne / pair of jeans if you forward them to 50 of your soon-to-be-ex friends.

It’s a pet peeve of mine that people forward these on to all their contacts, without taking 30 seconds to check whether there’s any truth to them or not.

So next time you get one of those emails, no matter how legitimate they look, stop and run through this quick checklist before you clutter up other people’s mailboxes:

1. Check the terminology. Emails that employ scare tactics and are sensationally written are usually hoaxes. Plus spelling, terms or phrases can be a giveaway (e.g. ‘store’ = US; ‘shop’ = UK).

2. Copy a distinctive phrase (say 7-10 words) from the email (include e.g. a name or unusual terms for best results), paste it into Google and search it. The results will show if it’s a hoax or not.

3. Alternatively, look through the databases on or where every hoax email under the sun is listed.

If it is dodgy, do let the person who sent it to you know. It’s your choice whether you do this in a ‘reply to all’ email (can be a little humiliating) or leave it up to them to tell the rest of their contacts about it.


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