We're close to Halloween and it seems that every year at this time, the "urban legends" are spread around the internet to scare you and make darn sure you forward the warning to everyone on your mailing list.

You may recall the old fable of Chicken Little who, convinced that the sky was falling, whipped his colleagues into mass hysteria. The modern day version of this is an e-mail chain letter warning of some dire event involving abductions while leaving shopping malls, filling your car with gasoline, offers of a stranger asking you to smell a perfume, which turns out to be chloroform, erroneous (but very believable) medical misinformation, and last but not least, the "missing or ill child" photo which spreads around the net like wildfire, but that child is alive and well.  How do you separate fact from fiction and not warn your friends via e-mail that "the sky is falling?"

The answer lies in a very neat and informative web page, which is a clearing house for urban legends, scams of all kinds, cell phone warning misinformation, weirdly named computer viruses, and the millions of dollars which Microsoft, Bill Gates and AOL are about to pay you for forwarding their e-mail information, the constantly circulating petition asking you to sign it so that our government will not charge five or ten cents per e-mail, and the rumor that every e-mail you send is being tracked by your ISP and sent to a government agency. 

While the above-mentioned items are almost all hoaxes, there is some valid information in a few of them, but you'll need to do a bit of reading on the subjects to find out what's true and what's not.  Fortunately for us, Snopes has categorized their information and if that doesn't help you, there is a search box to type in relevant words.

Again, you may laugh at the idea of receiving truckloads of money for sending an e-mail, but other than the obvious nutty legends such as this one, there are some very scary and true warnings on Snopes, and it may be of value to you to go to their site to do a bit of reading.

The same information was available for many years on "Hoaxbusters," which was closed down by the government because of a claim they were associated with CIAC, (Computer Incident Advisory Capability).  The good news is that Hoaxbusters has risen from the dead with a small change in title, Hoax Busters, and calls itself "The BIG LIST of Internet Hoaxes."  Slightly different in format from Snopes, it has a huge database of information easily searched alphabetically and by subject.  By cross-checking an item in both Snopes and Hoax Busters, you'll most likely find your answer to a weird warning.

Over the years, I've encouraged those of you who've sent me urban legends, warnings and hoaxes, plus several genuine items which are good to know, to go to (at first) Hoaxbusters (the original) and later on, Snopes.  I don't mind helping any of you find out information, so if you need to, please do e-mail me at -- but I just receiveed a hoax sent to over 30 e-mail addresses.  This information was clearly available on Snopes by typing two words into their search box.  Please check out all information before you tell your friends and relatives to head for cover...that a piece of sky may knock them into Never-Never Land!!

Carol Marston, VP
Far Rockaway High School Online Alumni Association


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