Monday, October 08, 2007

Our View: Snopes before you send

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.

But...

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.

15 comments:

Hilly said...

Hahaha, you are being so kind...much nicer than I am. Whenever I get one of those emails, I reply back with this:

Dear Friend,
This is a hoax. Add this to your favorites: www.snopes.com

Regards,
Hilary

andi said...

I ALWAYS check Snopes when I get one of those e-mails (even if they are the warm/fuzzy ones that people wish were true). Then I send back a link to Snopes to the person who sent it to me. Honestly, people! Just because someone sent you an e-mail doesn't make it true.

Jeff said...

hilly - That's not so mean. At first I was going to reply and tell them they are "big dumb stupidheads," but then I changed my approach.

andi - I just got one yesterday from someone who sent this. And this one started in 2001!

yellojkt said...

There was one last week about free puppies that went all over DC and made several online chats and the paper.

People are too compassionate for their own good.

btw, congrats on finding my MoDo blog.

The Holmes said...

I was kind of sad when my mom found out about snopes. No more urban legends disguised as the latest horror to beware of in my email.

Jeff said...

yello - So far it looks like it's still our little secret ;-)

holmes - Yes, that would be sad if that was all she was ever sending you.

Sandy said...

You mean that email about getting $100 from Bill Gates if I simply emailed 20 people is bogus?

Damn.

Ba Doozer said...

wellwellWELL, I crown you official king of snopes. may the peasants heed your warnings

VE said...

I sent out a chain letter to everyone I know and everyone I thought I knew but didn't saying that there is this site called Snopes that is actually a large web spoof of other urband legends. How fun and confusing is that?

Jeff said...

sandy - No, THAT one is actually real. Go ahead, try it.

doozie ...lest they be beheaded.

ve - Good plan. I can just see them now, Hey... how do I verify that?!

Bill said...

Thanks, today I checked an E-mail and found out that Andy Rooney did not write it. It wxdcdstohas been around for years.

JD said...

That makes me feel so smart.

Now, tell me how to nicely tell people to quit sending me email that I have to send to 25 of my dearest friends in order to get a blessing, and that requires me to email it back to the person who sent it to me so they know without a shadow of a doubt that I sent it on.

Ah, a little something for M.K.I.A.

Jeff said...

bill - What has been around for years, the email or Andy Rooney?

jd - I'll definitely pass it on to Mr. KIA... if I can figure out what you're asking ;-)

Chase said...

Ugh...I HATE FWDS! I, too, reply to all with the snopes stories. Maybe one day people will wise up.

But, then again, I did just get an email with the story about 'if you fwd this, AOL/Microsoft will write you a check'. That's the worst one of all! And people still fall for it.

Uuuuuuuuuuuugh.

wayabetty said...

Thanks for the tip Jeff! I forwarded on to my Dad and neighbor b/c they have the tendency to forward chain letters. One time it was this kid in Texas who was kidnapped, but it was false and my neighbor sent it to a gazillion of her friends, and being the sucker that I was...I forwarded on to my friends too. D'OH!