The internet and e-mail can be a wonderful thing, but they also bring some strange things inside our homes.
Suddenly you are a multi-millionaire, if only you will give a Siberian or a Nigerian your bank account; a friend is stranded in London (Madrid, Paris, take your pick) with their passport and wallet stolen, send money now! Your e-mail account, bank account, credit card will be shut down in 24 hours if you don’t send your bank account information now!
All of those are the obvious fraud attempts, though they must work, because they show up on a regular basis.
But then there are other kind, the political e-mails, with wild claims that you are not quite sure whether or not to believe. Most of them are attacking President Obama.
“President Obama wants to tax your Christmas tree.”
“Barack Obama is a radical Muslim who will not recite the Pledge of Allegiance.”
“Barack Obama shuns military personnel.”
President Obama is the subject of many of these internet-fostered rumors, but this is not limited to Democrats. False internet rumors about President George W. Bush included the insinuation that he has the lowest IQ of any President; that he said, “The French have no word for entrepreneur;” and that he refused to sell his home to African-Americans.
So what to do when your e-mail box fills up with these and other rumors, whether about politics, sudden changes in government law, your bank account or friends stranded in Paris?
Number one: verify. If your credit card or bank account is in trouble, don’t respond to the e-mail claiming that, or click on any site associated with it. Call your bank or credit card company and verify.
If a friend is claiming to be stranded and needs money, also call them. They’ll probably be apologetic that their e-mail was hacked.
Political insinuations are more difficult -- but again, verify.
1) Does the story contain a link or citation to a credible news source -- i.e., a wire service, a newspaper, a television channel? If it doesn’t, than there’s a good chance this is a made up fabrication.
2) Check sources; some e-mail political pieces say, “I checked it on snopes and it’s true.” Don’t believe it, check it yourself. There are credible fact-checking sources that you can use to verify stories. These sources include:
and The Washington Post’s Fact Checker
E-mail and the internet are marvelous, but there is no “liar, liar, pants on fire” alarm that goes off with every rumor and misstatement. Politically motivated people can spread false rumors, a tactic that is ancient, but now at high speed with a finger’s click on your computer.
Next time your e-mail box fills up, take a deep breath, use that delete key, and verify.
by Mike Matejka
Livingston & McLean Counties Bldg & Trades Council