Like most of you, I frequently receive emails from well-intentioned people who are sincerely trying to help when they forward their chain letters that warn us of the latest parking lot carjacker, police impersonator or poison sponge product. I really appreciate the fact that these friends of mine are trying to help, and that they care enough about me to include me on their "cc" list.
If I could just offer one little suggestion to any of you who are prone to saving the world this way? PLEASE do one little thing first...
BEFORE you send your email to your 25 closest friends, simply check www.snopes.com first. It's quick, it's easy and it works! And if you do, the odds are about 99.99% that you will find the story you are about to send is actually False.
The reason it works is because the fine people at Snopes have taken the time to systematically research nearly every popular threat, concern or urban legend that has circulated the internet for over 10 years now. Sometimes they find the rumor to be true, sometimes false and sometimes they even have to list it as "undetermined." But no matter what conclusion they've come to, they always present the evidence that supports their findings. But like I said, nearly every forwarded email of this type I've been sent over the last several years has proven to be false.
If you don't already know about Snopes, or any of the other urban legend busting websites, please consider this a gift from me to you. Because if you don't check the background of these emails before you send them on, you're likely to get busted yourself in a somewhat embarrassing way. For example, any time someone sends me one of these, I always check it with Snopes. Then, when I find that it's really just another internet myth (like it normally is), I do a "reply all" with a link to the story at Snopes and a polite response that explains why your concern is for naught and that in the future it might be a good idea to check with Snopes first.
That way, you get to learn from me all about the proper way to handle this in the future - and your 25 friends get to learn that you were a sucker for another email chain letter.