Nobody is using keyrings with tracking devices to stake out burglary victims

February 1, 2013

You could also call this post, “Sometimes, even the authorities and the news media get roped in by a hoax.”

I’ve got some Google Alerts set up to help me find interesting topics for potential articles. While digging through the past week’s results, I ran across this item, from the Lubbock Avalanche-Journal: LPD warns locals of possible new scam.

If you don’t want to click the link, here’s the crux: “These criminals are handing out key rings that have tracking devices inside them. This way, the criminals are able to know where their targets are at all times if they are carrying the key ring.”

Well, I’ve heard of this one before. First in a forwarded email from my mom, then at Snopes: Key Crime.

Again, if you’re not interested in reading the whole thing, here’s the really basic jist:

snopes-falseOr, if you’d like a little more detail, this sums it up nicely (emphasis mine):

Aside from some technologically questionable aspects to these warnings, one prominent point of skepticism is the lack of obvious utility behind the scheme – that is, how would the ability to track unknown, randomly-selected motorists facilitate the commission of burglaries and carjackings? Especially since both of those crimes are overwhelmingly crimes of opportunity, engaged in as perpetrators spot or stumble across their chances, rather than crimes typically pursued through the elaborate staking out and tracking of targets.

So it’s a hoax. Please spread the word whenever you see this in an article, or when it shows up on Facebook, or when your mom forwards it to you.

The real issue, however, is the fact that, apparently,  nobody researches anything. In the article from Lubbock, it cites the Fort Worth PD as a source. So someone there got this forwarded email, passed it around, and then somebody told the newspaper. And nobody along that path checked it out, or even thought, “Man, this doesn’t sound at all like the way burglars and carjackers actually work.”

So you might say, “But isn’t it okay to just believe all the hoaxes, so then you’ll always be prepared for everything?”

I don’t agree. Mental energy is a finite resource, and if you waste all yours freaking out about your keychains, you’ll have less to spend on actually being vigilant in a useful, productive way. The point of fraud prevention is not to go through life in a state of sustained panic. It’s about being cautious, calm and skeptical of wild claims.

It’s also a bad habit to believe everything you see on the Internet, because that’s exactly what scammers want. Hey, if believing the keychain hoax is harmless, why not believe the email about investing in Iraqi Dinars, too? After all, the person who sent you the message SAID “this is not a scam,” right there in the message they typed, right?

Hoaxes are destructive. Don’t believe them, and please don’t spread them.

Hoax Alert: Olympic Torch Virus

January 9, 2012

HOAX!I have to admit something: there was a time when, had I been just a couple years younger and had I thought of it, I would have probably tried to start a few email virus hoaxes myself. Some of them are just so off-the-wall they’re hilarious.

Of course, given my sense of humor, I would have gone the absurdist route. My hoaxes would have promised a virus that “MAKES A FIST ON YR SCREEN N PUNCHES YR FACE FOR REAL!!!” or something.

Of course, I might have been dismayed if people had actually believed it.

Alas, I never went that route (plus, I’m sure there’s some way you can get in legal trouble for that kind of monkey business, so there’s that, too). However, I still get a kick out of some of these. Here’s one that’s resurfaced:


In the coming days, you should be aware…..Do not open any message with an attachment called: Invitation FACEBOOK, regardless of who sent it. It is a virus that opens an OlympIc torch that burns the whole hard disc C of your computer.
This virus will be received from someone you had in your address book. That’s why you should send this message to all your contacts. It is better to receive this email 25 times than to receive the virus and open it.
If you receive an email called: Invitation FACEBOOK, though sent by a friend, do not open it and delete it immediately. It is the worst virus announced by CNN. A new virus has been discovered recently that has been classified by Microsoft as the most destructive virus ever.
It is a Trojan Horse that asks you to install an adobe flash plug-in. Once you install it, it’s all over.. And there is no repair yet for this kind of virus. This virus simply destroys the Zero Sector of the Hard Disc, where the vital information of their function is saved.

Actually, Snopes says this is a hoax. The link in the message is for a completely different threat.

Whoever wrote this does not have the faintest idea of how computers function. How exactly does it “burn” your “whole hard disc C”? Do they mean that literally, as in, there will be smoke and stuff?

For that matter, since when is Microsoft in the business of classifying computer viruses as the “most destructive virus ever”? Would Microsoft use language that inaccurate (“most _____ ever”)?

The real lesson here is this: if you get an email about a virus and uses any variation of “THIS IS NOT A HOAX!” (including references to Snopes), there is about a 99% chance that it is totally a hoax and that you should click “delete” instead of “forward.”

In any case, always check it out first, before you panic or forward the message.

Email Chain Letters: Bill Gates is STILL not giving away free money

November 3, 2009

I can’t believe this ancient chain email is still going around. After how many years of widespread Internet use, people are still falling for these things?

I feel the same way I felt when I found out Survivor had been picked up for a 20th season: Who is responsible for this? Aren’t we all smart enough to ignore this yet?

Here’s the text, along with a few comments (bold italicized text):

—– Original Message —–


Couldn’t hurt to try. 

Unless you consider “wasting a few hours and looking like a doofus” hurtful. Which I do.

Ok guys, my lawyer’s paralegal sent this one to me and if it doesn’t work, they are aware that we all will be coming to visit them for a law suit for false advertisement! J


Tuesday of what week of what year, please? When you’re going to cite a textual source, you need to include this information.

To all of my friends, I do not usually forward messages, But this is from my friend Pearlas Sandborn and she really is an attorney.

I thought your attorney’s paralegal sent it to you. You just said that a second ago.

If she says that this will work – It will work. After all, What have you got to lose?

Your dignity.

SORRY EVERYBODY.. JUST HAD TO  TAKE THE CHANCE!!! I’m an attorney, And I know the law. This thing is for real. Rest assured AOL and Intel will follow through with their promises for fear of facing a multimillion-dollar class action suit similar to the one filed by PepsiCo against General Electric not too long a go.

When one corporate entity sues another corporate entity, I don’t think it’s called a “class action” lawsuit. Anyone who knows the law would know that. I don’t know the law, and I know that.

Dear Friends: Please do not take this for a junk letter. Bill Gates sharing his fortune. If you ignore this, You will repent later  …

Bill Gates is not sharing his fortune with anyone in anything other than a tax-deductible way. Whoever wrote this hasn’t the foggiest clue as to how wealthy people do business. “Repent” is an awfully religious-sounding word to use in this context, too. Will you have to confess to a priest if you don’t do it?

Microsoft and AOL are now the largest Internet companies and in an effort to make sure that Internet Explorer remains the most widely used program, Microsoft and AOL are running an e-mail beta test.

Microsoft doesn’t own AOL, nor are they affiliated with Intel (mentioned previously). They don’t make money from email anyway, they make money from advertising and cutting into Google’s dominance of  the “search” business. Besides, Explorer is a web browser, not an email client.

When you forward this e-mail to friends, Microsoft can and will track it (If you are a Microsoft Windows user) For a two weeks time period.

What if you use Windows, but use a web-based client like Yahoo! or Gmail? What if you use Windows, but a non-Microsoft client like Eudora?

For every person that you forward this e-mail to, Microsoft will pay you $245.00 For every person that you sent it to that forwards it on, Microsoft will pay you $243.00 and for every third person that receives it, You will be paid $241.00. Within two weeks, Microsoft will contact you for your address and then send you a check.

Wow, those are all uneven numbers, so it must be real, right? If it was $250 it would totally look like a hoax.

Regards. Charles S Bailey General Manager Field Operations

1-800-842-2332 Ext.. 1085 or 904-1085 or  RNX  292-1085

I am so tempted to call these numbers.

Thought this was a scam myself, But two weeks after receiving this e-mail and forwarding it on. Microsoft contacted me for my address and within days, I received a check for $24,800.00.You need to respond before the beta testing is over. If anyone can afford this, Bill gates is the man.

Microsoft is and has been a corporation for many years, not Bill Gates’s personal piggy bank. They have a board of directors, shareholders and the whole nine yards. It’s a simplistic, ignorant view of business to think that Gates just gets to spend the company’s money however he wants to.

It’s all marketing expense to him. Please forward this to as many people as possible. You are bound to get at least $10, 000.00

We’re not going to help them out with their e-mail beta test without getting a little something for our time.. My brother’s girlfriend got in on this a few months ago. When I went to visit him for the Baylor/UT game, she showed me her check. It was for the sum of $4, 324.44 and was stamped ‘Paid In Full’ 

Wait, I though the “beta testing” was only for two weeks. If somebody “got in on this a few months ago,” isn’t it already over? Plus, they don’t stamp checks “Paid In Full.” That’s loan documents and invoices. Plus, if she’d cashed it, how did she still have the check in her hands?


So, it doesn’t quite stand up to scrutiny. At all.

What I don’t understand (beyond “why are people still forwarding this?”) is—why do people create these things in the first place?

I mean (Devil’s advocate time), I can understand why someone would create a Secret Shopper scam; you can make a pile of ill-gotten cash that way. I can see why someone would create one of the old postal chain letter pyramid schemes; again, you can steal a lot of money that way.

But to create a chain email just for the sake of creating a hoax? I don’t get it. I suppose there could be a couple explanations as to why you would do it:

  1. You’ve got some weird idea about becoming famous, and this is the best plan you could come up with
  2. You think everybody (but you) is a gullible idiot, and are going to prove it by creating an email hoax
  3. You’re an idiot.

Beyond that, I can’t think of a reason to start one of these things.

I can also think of exactly zero reasons why you’d forward one of these stupid messages. So please, don’t do it.

For that matter, please stop watching Survivor, too. I know, I know; “if you don’t like it, just don’t watch it.” I don’t. But it just bugs me knowing that it’s still out there. Plus, it’s taking up time on The Soup that could be better used to rip on Spencer Pratt or Lindsay Lohan.


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