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1001 Computer Words You Need to Know$
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Jerry Pournelle

Print publication date: 2004

Print ISBN-13: 9780195167757

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: November 2020

DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780195167757.001.0001

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PRINTED FROM OXFORD SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (oxford.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright Oxford University Press, 2021. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in OSO for personal use. date: 17 October 2021

How to Protect Yourself from Hoaxes, Frauds, and Identity Theft

How to Protect Yourself from Hoaxes, Frauds, and Identity Theft

(p.130) How to Protect Yourself from Hoaxes, Frauds, and Identity Theft
1001 Computer Words You Need to Know

Jerry Pournelle

Oxford University Press

There are two basic categories of Internet lies: frauds, where the object is to get your money, and hoaxes, where the primary object is just to pull your chain, but there can be far-reaching consequences as well. Hoaxes give the perpetrators ego gratification as they watch their creation spread throughout the Internet. Frauds may give the perpetrators your life savings, and give you months—maybe years—of hassle as you try to repair your credit record and retrieve your very identity. Hoaxes—Hoaxes are spread by e-mail and come in an endless variety of guises. There are, for example, fake virus warnings, chain letters promising riches if you follow their instructions (or threatening dire consequences if you don’t); urban myths about women in peril, dogs in microwaves, and hypodermic needles on theater seats; letters that tug at your heart strings or appeal to your greedy side; Internet petitions (often based on false information); and letters claiming that Bill Gates wants to give you money. Yeah, right. Even the most “innocent” hoaxes are harmful. At the very least, they take up your time, and they try to get you to forward them to other people as well. If you forward a letter to just 40 people, and each of them does the same, and so on, then after just four steps, more than two and a half million copies will have been sent out. That’s a lot of wasted time and wasted bandwidth. These letters can also contain dangerous misinformation and bad advice. One example is a common letter advising women not to stop when pulled over by the highway patrol, but instead to dial #77 on their cell phones to talk to the police—a wrong number in 48 of the 50 states! Perhaps the most common example is the virus hoax—typically a letter forwarded by someone you know warning you that if you find a certain file on your computer it means you are infected with a virus.

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