Debunking Internet Scams, Hoaxes, and Urban Legends

Here's a list of outstanding sites to check out things that seem a little iffy, too good to be true, or say "send this to everyone you know!".
Internet scams, hoaxes and urban legends take many forms so it's good to have a few places you can go to see if something is true or not.

snopes.com: Urban Legends Reference Pages
Launched in 1995, snopes.com is one of the first (and best, in my opinion) sites to target this growing area of interest and usually the first place I go to check on something.

TruthOrFiction.com
is another reliable site with the top 20 stories on TruthOrFiction.com in the last hour being a good way to keep an eye on the latest items making the rounds.

About.com: Current Internet Hoaxes, Email Rumors & Urban Legends
The about.com page on current internet hoaxes, email rumors & urban legends has a short but good list of items and includes a FAQ that defines the differences between a hoax, a rumor and an urban legend.

"Scambusters.org - Internet Scams, Identity Theft, and Urban Legends: Are You at Risk?" Another excellent site that cover not only myths, scams, and hoaxes, but phishing, ID theft, and creddt card fraud. Their email scams page keeps on top of most recent items making the rounds.

The next time someone sends you email exclaiming "send this to everyone you know!" you know where to check it out.

Update: Link to Urban Myths deleted due to red WOT rating.

Update 2: Comments have now been closed as the debate was becoming too political

Off for now,
Rhiannon

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Comments

by gizmo.richards on 7. August 2010 - 23:30  (55606)

It is is an axiom of administrative theory that most regularity agencies eventually become controlled by those they are trying to regulate. Those that don't succumb are usually subject to campaigns to discredit them.

I'm seeing a similar process at work with debunking sites. These sites represent a threat to the political spin merchants on both the left and right side of politics. That's why there's currently an active campaign to discredit them and a parallel campaign for the spin doctors to create their own debunking sites which they can fully control.

The problem here is that the spin doctors are very good at their job. So good that it's almost impossible for even informed citizens to work out the real truth. When besieged with powerful misinformation representing opposite points of view most people end up thinking "I just don't know what is the truth here." This of course represents a complete victory for the spin doctors.

This is a freeware site so what's the relevance of this social issue to freeware?

Unfortunately it's very relevant and in a much broader context than hoax debunking sites. Everyday the editors of this site get bombarded with cleverly crafted misinformation which we have to try and analyze and make sense of. It's hard work and sometimes stressful. If an editor criticizes a product he runs the risk of being subject to some form of orchestrated discrediting campaign by the vendor.

Everyday you as a user are subject to the same process. Indeed the very purpose of this article on debunking has been written because we are all in the same boat.

My view is that you should research and analyze the facts and come to the best conclusion you can. Occasionally you may be wrong but that's far better than letting your mind slip into a state of confused indifference.

Next time you are about to press the "Foward" button to pass on a piece of juicy information to your friends I suggest you pause and think about it. Don't let yourself become an unwitting pawn in the misinformation game being played by the spin doctors.

That said I'm closing down this thread. If not we will soon be getting disguised comments from PR agencies and other misinformation peddlers.

Gizmo

by AJNorth on 8. August 2010 - 2:13  (55611)

Hello Gizmo,

Well put. It would indeed appear to be time to 'pull the plug' on this; alas, the 'discussion' has devolved rather severely. On the other hand, our members have mostly shown themselves to be thoughtful, articulate, savvy and polite - which puts us ahead of the curve.

As Voltaire is generally quoted as having said (though it was almost certainly not he), "I may not agree with what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it."

With warmest regards,

AJ

by Soapymac on 7. August 2010 - 22:17  (55604)

There is a simple mnemonic(sp?) that can help you...and here it is:

Research, Reason, Relate, Record, Reflect, followed by Choice, Commitment, and Consequence. These are the Generals. The Sergeants, who do all the work, are who, what, where, when, why, and how. The Founding fathers used these, though they did not describe them as such. Martin Luther King, Jr. used it but never described it as such. The right-wing radio talk show hosts use them as such, though they also did not describe them that way.

Any Liberal you can name has NEVER used this mnemonic: I have never heard ONE of them who knew HOW to think. Remember the mnemonic in your next conversation. If you hear it used, you are talking to a conservative. If it is not used, you are among the midst of the liberals. Decide where you want to be.

This mnemonic gives you a guide. It will even help you troubleshoot computer problems. Gizmo uses it, but he doesn't describe his thought processes in this manner...but don't we listen to him and his editors?

by meyecommander on 7. August 2010 - 23:31  (55607)

Correct reasoning (or HOW to think): http://www.bergen.edu/faculty/gcronk/logicsp3b.pdf

by Jack L Cooper (not verified) on 7. August 2010 - 22:50  (55605)

Right wing radio hosts use Research, Reason, Relate, Record, Reflect? What fantasy are you living?

by howiem on 7. August 2010 - 20:23  (55597)

Email Debunking 101 - avoiding humiliation

1. When you receive an email that says pass it on to everyone you know, 99.999% of the time it contains a small grain of truth and a gaggle of lies. If you cannot, or are unwilling to research it, then delete it. Don't pass it on! These emails often have no links or references to credible sources. Sometimes they contain links but the links do not work (intentionally), and sometimes they contain links that say the opposite of the claims in the email. Sometimes the emails do not ask one to pass it on, but it contains no validated information or sources.

2. There is evidence that many of the chain emails actually originate from one side of the political spectrum with the specific intention to humiliate those on the other side. In other cases they are sent from your side of the political spectrum by misguided folks who think they are doing damage to the other side by elaborating, exaggerating or just lying. The rule of thumb is that if one is going to lie, make sure it is a fool-proof lie, but be aware that fool-proof lies are pretty hard to devise, in fact almost impossible in this, the era of information overabundance. It is getting harder and harder to create effective misinformation and/or disinformation that is not quickly "cracked".

3. Some of you will automatically say that some of the debunking sites are biased. Their opinions may be biased, but that does not necessarily mean that their research is faulty. Everyone is biased in some way, and no one is right 100% of the time. If you suspect bias, do your own research. If you are not good at recognizing bias, weasel-wording, etc., then just delete the email and stop wasting everyone's time.

4. Never use blog posts or even newspaper articles as a sole source of valid information, unless they have links to valid, confirming sources, and the relevant links on those sources check out. Bloggers often repeat the lies they receive. In addition be sure to read the details to see if they exactly match the claims of the bunk email.

6. If you have no time to research, then delete the email. Don't pass it on. Even if it does not come back to bite you directly, redistributing chain emails has a major negative impact on your credibility, and any movement you associate yourself with. No movement can step forward if its advocates keep shooting ourselves in the foot.

Finally, to paraphrase Ronald Reagan, Verify, verify and verify, then you won't have to worry about trust.
hbm

If you believe everything you read, better not read. - Japanese proverb

Education is when you read the fine print. Experience is what you get if you don't. - Pete Seeger

by steveorg (not verified) on 7. August 2010 - 17:42  (55584)

For you right-wingers out there, it should be noted that FactCheck.org is funded by a conservative source. As AJNorth mentioned, it's a project of the Annenberg Center which is funded by the Annenberg Foundation. The Annenbergs were very influential in conservative circles and closely associated with Reagan.

Ultimately, facts are facts (duh!!) and not subject to opinion. The gold standard sites such as Snopes and FactCheck provide sources so those inclined to do so, can verify for themselves. Those of you under the misimpression that Snopes has shown wing bias shouldn't let your world view get in the way of digging down to the actual facts.

rhiannon - re: www.thanksno.com/ :) :)

by meyecommander on 7. August 2010 - 20:13  (55596)

Amen!

by rhiannon on 7. August 2010 - 19:07  (55590)

:)

by Anonymous665567765 (not verified) on 7. August 2010 - 18:52  (55586)

for you left-wingers out there, Annenberg Foundation is now regarded as leftist org, just the like Ford foundation and all those other b.s. org's you see sponsoring PBS, etc....

and much as you lefties like to deny it - everyone knows the bias in U.S. mainstream media exists....Rather, Brokaw, Jennings all leftists as are the anchors now - Couric and the dipsh#ts on the morning shows...75% of newspapers in the U.S. editorial pages slant left...latest studies found 75% or higher of reporters voted democrat....MSM in U.S. fails to cover global warming email scandal, doesn't cover thugs at polling booths, doesn't cover ACORN, and they falsely accuse McCain of cheating on his wife but it takes the Nat'l Enquirer to expose John Edwards....and Dan Rather and the fake documents on Bush....and on and on and on....of course they'll cry about talk radio and demand a "fairness doctrine" and they'll whine about the horrors Fox News while they lap up anything MSNBC or CNN says as "gospel"....

we know what's going on....

by AJNorth on 8. August 2010 - 4:51  (55612)

Are you merely an unregistered visitor, or do you simply not have the guts to sign your name to this rant? No matter; try as I might, I simply cannot let your comments go without setting at least part of the record straight. It is more than obvious that you are incapable of discerning what an actual reputable organization even is - much less truth. Your posting is a blight on this site.

The "global warming email scandal" to which you refer is itself a fraud. These emails were stolen; the act itself was a crime (felony). As many were copyrighted internal communications, their release was also a crime.

As to whether they reveal global climate change (in the from of warming) to be a hoax, they did not - irrespective of all the lunatics ranting at the top of amplified little lungs. This is not my opinion, it is the result of EVERY SINGLE INVESTIGATION into these emails - from around the world. All they showed were the sometimes coarse remarks used between colleagues and friends, and demonstrated that these scientists are also human beings (I doubt very much that you would care to have YOUR private musings published). The investigations also concluded that, if anything, the rate and magnitude of climate change (warming) to be even faster and greater than previously reported. For those who do not consider Reuters or The Associated Press to part of the vast left-wing media conspiracy, here are two recent articles on the subject - http://www.reuters.com/article/latestCrisis/idUSSGE66707D

and, http://hosted.ap.org/dynamic/stories/U/US_SCI_STATE_OF_THE_CLIMATE?SITE=.... Read them for yourselves.

The Acorn 'scandal' was a totally fabricated fraud - almost an exact carbon copy of the Shirley Sherrod debacle: video tapes were cleverly edited. The two young punks who perpetrated this fraud are themselves facing criminal prosecution; pity that those who aided and abetted them (and likely bankrolled them as well) will not also take a fall - but the Roger Ailes, Limbaughs and Becks of this world are too clever than to get their own hands dirty. Should you care to argue the point, you may take it up with the Attorneys General of the states of New York and California. (Of course, they're both Democrats, and therefore obviously cannot be trusted.)

The Fairness Doctrine, though not perfect, was a workable policy under which those granted use of the public airways were required to operate. It generally resulted in actual fairness and balance - not the humorless joke that is the motto (and only the motto) of the Murdoch-Ailes cesspool. Eliminated by Reagan, it has allowed the demented and deranged (along with the just plain greedy)to destroy broadcasting in this nation to an even greater degree than what Paddy Chayefsky foretold in his prescient screenplay for "Network" (1976).

Finally, if it's actual news - that is, reliable and accurate information - that one wishes, those desires can be met by at least four organizations, the BBC (http://www.bbc.co.uk/) and the CBC (http://www.cbc.ca/) [many be be surprised by how well our neighbors to the North and those across the Pond cover events below the 49th parallel], along with Reuters (http://www.reuters.com/) and The Associated Press (http://hosted.ap.org/dynamic/fronts/HOME?SITE=AP&SECTION=HOME).

by rjerryc (not verified) on 7. August 2010 - 17:23  (55583)

SNOPES, if you chesk them out closely, is operated by a husband/wife team. I find it a bit far-fetched that they can accurately check and report on as many things as they do.
I also find that when checking the results from SNOPES that certain politically charged issues are almost always found to be either true or false depending on the political left or right.

by AJNorth on 7. August 2010 - 18:18  (55585)

At some point, every sentient being with the ability to reason has to make a judgement ('choice' if you prefer) as to what is True and what is False. For instance, some base their decisions on religious dogma ("The Earth is six-thousand years old," for example; no amount of evidence based on science - defined as "knowledge as distinguished from ignorance or misunderstanding" - will alter their views). Others have biases or prejudices - defined as "preconceived judgments" - based on any number of factors, almost always involving an emotional, rather than analytical, response. Opinions and beliefs are too often unrelated to facts (defined as "that which possesses the quality of being actual") [all definitions from the Merriam-Webster Dictionary].

Please carefully read the page linked at a previous post by meyecommander - http://www.factcheck.org/2009/04/snopescom/ - in particular the last section, entitled "A Final Warning."

(And incidentally, the age of the Earth is on the order of 4.54 billion years +/- 1%.)

by meyecommander on 7. August 2010 - 20:10  (55595)

Thanks for the reference.

by rhiannon on 7. August 2010 - 19:05  (55589)

If you don't care for one of sites above then use one that suits your worldview. If none of them do, a search on internet hoaxes will net you many others.

@AJNorth: Fackcheck.org is a good site - I didn't add it to the list because it's focus is for the most part is US based, and we have a large global population here on the site.

by AJNorth on 7. August 2010 - 16:03  (55580)

First, Web Of Trust (WOT) reports Urbanmyths to be UNSAFE (RED for Trustworthiness and Privacy).

Second, I should like to echo others by saying that Snopes.com is a Gold Standard as far as veracity is concerned. That their analyses do not comport with the politics of some reflects the biases and world views of those people - NOT Snopes.com. Everyone is entitled to their own opinions; they are NOT entitled to their own facts.

Finally, another post references FactCheck.org (http://www.factcheck.org/), a project of the Annenberg Center of the U. Of Pennsylvania, another Gold Standard of veracity - and highly recommended as an addition to this list.

by rhiannon on 7. August 2010 - 20:30  (55598)

Thanks for pointing that out AJNorth, that one got by me. It's fixed now.
Some days you don't see the forest for the trees.... :)

by Anonymous665567765 (not verified) on 7. August 2010 - 18:54  (55587)

you prob believe everything Media Matters says, too....

by Anupam on 7. August 2010 - 16:15  (55581)

Thanks a lot for alerting us about the red WOT link. It somehow missed us. It will be removed soon.

by Stan (not verified) on 7. August 2010 - 14:58  (55577)

To Mystery and Tomg, is there anything other then your own feeling that we should not use snopes.com because they're biased against the rightwing?
Or are we to just believe your unsubstantiated feelings.

by tomg (not verified) on 7. August 2010 - 15:19  (55578)

Stan
You have the right to your unsubstantiated feelings as I do. This is still America with free speech. However, America apprears to be heading in the wrong direction.

by meyecommander on 7. August 2010 - 20:08  (55594)

How about giving reference to back your position, or are you just toya!

by MysteryWorshiper (not verified) on 7. August 2010 - 13:56  (55573)

Hi rhiannon, thanks for these useful sites. I agree with tomg that snopes.com is definitely biased in their reports, so everyone ought to be careful and crosscheck with other sources. Best wishes to everyone.

by tomg (not verified) on 7. August 2010 - 13:15  (55572)

I found snopes.com to be far left and not reliable, be careful. I do not
use anymore.

by MrWednesday7 (not verified) on 7. August 2010 - 19:28  (55591)

Thanks for the recommendation, this gives me all the more reason to use it!

by meyecommander on 7. August 2010 - 14:26  (55576)

You need to investigate further: http://www.factcheck.org/2009/04/snopescom/

by Anonymous665567765 (not verified) on 7. August 2010 - 18:56  (55588)

you should investigate factcheck then....all these stoooopid lefty sites "vouching" for each other, lol...

by meyecommander on 7. August 2010 - 20:06  (55593)

Where is your reference to back up your position, or are you just toya! At least I gave reference material!

by Lief (not verified) on 7. August 2010 - 5:52  (55561)

For political fact checking try politifact.com

by eikelein on 6. August 2010 - 1:35  (55519)

Thanks a BIG bunch, Rhiannon.

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