Top 7 Most Outrageous E-Mail Hoaxes

By Anna Schecter

Feb 13, 2007 12:50pm

What are the most ridiculous e-mail hoaxes of all time?  Of the thousands of hoaxes that end up in in-boxes, below are the top 7, according to the editors of "PC Magazine," a bimonthly technology publication. And the winners are: 7. A Web site offers a device for performing laser eye surgery at home. 6. The 2003 California wildfires left the U.S. facing a severe toilet-paper shortage. 5. You can purchase human flesh through a company called MeetBeef. 4. Florida’s governor asked residents to reduce electrical usage during Ted Bundy’s execution. 3. The BabyInk body art chain specializes in tattooing babies. 2. Comedian Andy Kaufman has returned, 20 years after faking his death. 1. The U.S. government plans to track homeless persons by implanting RFID chips in them. Click Here for Full Blotter Coverage. The list comes from a pool of e-mail hoaxes that show up on Snopes.com, a Web site devoted to online urban myths. Other priceless hoaxes on the site include "Gas exploration in Saudi Arabia uncovered the skeleton of a giant human," and "PETA has clad deer in orange hunters’ vests." Bill Orvis, Senior Security Analyst for the U.S. Department of Energy’s Computer Incident Advisory Capability (CIAC), handles break-ins and viruses within the DOE.  He says these hoaxes waste time and result in decreased productivity.  "If you multiply out the numbers of everyone deleting these messages, you get a fairly sizeable number for productivity losses within the U.S." Orvis started the CIAC’s own "hoaxbuster" site in 1995 to post false computer virus scares that were circulating around the DOE. "Our phones related to non-existent viruses went from 80 percent down to almost zero." The site proved so helpful that CIAC decided to continue to update it over the years. Now Orvis consults with the founders of Snopes.com to seek out mass e-mails that may or may not be pranks. Orvis says the "Top 7" list above are sent out mostly by pranksters, "The big fun of sending out the prank is to see it appear all over the world, or how many times it goes around the world.”  But the pranks could be helping spammers find e-mail addresses. "Some of these have thousands of addresses on them. If I was a spammer, I would be trolling the hoax messages to get new addresses," he said. Orvis says spam e-mails now have taken over hoax messages as the No. 1 crowder of in-boxes.

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