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:

Subject: URGENT!!! VIRUS WARNING:

URGENT!!
 
PLEASE CIRCULATE THIS NOTICE TO YOUR FRIENDS, FAMILY, CONTACTS!
 
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.
 
SNOPES SAYS THIS IS TRUE………… http://www.snopes.com/computer/virus/youtube.asp

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.


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