The Internet is by far the fastest and most far-reaching way to spread news, views, shoe sale announcements – and scams.
A couple of hounds got me over the weekend.
Well, I’m not sure if this was really a scam, but rather a case of misinformation.
The misinformation came in the form of an e-mail from a Florida friend of mine regarding two dogs in that needed a new home.
FWD: Subject: ANY PET LOVERS LOOKING FOR TWO LABS?
Subject: Seeking Home for 2 Family Dogs – Two gorgeous labs trained. If you can’t help, please forward & thank you!
The message goes on to outline these perfectly trained, good-with-kids, healthy and microchipped 3-year-old dogs whose family is moving overseas in two weeks. They must stay together or their hearts will break. Help!
It ends with a plea from the alleged owner:
I pray that someone, somewhere can help us keep Cookie and Coco together, and love them just as much as we do. Thank you all from the bottom of my heart. firstname.lastname@example.org
Not bothering to check into it, of course – why would this be a hoax? – I promptly posted it on my Facebook account. My intent was to serve as an angelic helping hand that could assist in finding these two perky pooches a loving abode.
I promptly deleted it, wholly chagrined, when more than one person commented that it had been a scam circulating on the Internet for quite some time.
My friend Paul did a simple check on Snopes.com and passed along the info that, while this plea for a new home was true when it first appeared on a pet blog in January, the dogs have since been merrily adopted.
Why am I telling you this?
To prove how easy it is to fall for this crap.
Several folks usually ask: “Are people that gullible – or just that dumb?”
It’s a mixture of both. It’s also a matter of tugging at our heartstrings or telling us things we want to believe. Oh, the poor doggies.
The only damage done by Cookie and Coco, as far as I know, was making me feel like a heel.
Other e-mails, however, could bleed us dry if we fell for them.
Here’s one I found in my inbox this morning:
Subject: DEAL 50/50
An Iraqi made a fixed deposit of $6.5m usd in my bank branch (Hang Seng Bank, Hong Kong) where am a director and he died with his entire family in the war leaving behind no next of kin, I’m ready to share 50/50 with you if you choose to stand as my deceased client next of kin. If interested mail me at the address below:
Yes, we want to believe we can get rich quick – but I doubt contacting Wong Tang is the way to go about it.
A third category of dubious e-mails is the urban legend, like this one I received last week:
Subject: Cookie Recipe
THIS IS A TRUE STORY!
My daughter and I had just finished a salad at a Neiman-Marcus Cafe in Dallas, and we decided to have a small dessert.
Because both of us are such cookie lovers, we decided to try the Neiman-Marcus cookie.
It was so excellent that I asked if they would give me the recipe, and the waitress said with a small frown, “I’m afraid not, but you can buy the recipe.”
Well, I asked how much, and she responded, “Only two fifty – it’s a great deal!”
I agreed to that, and told her to just add it to my tab.
The saga continues with the woman receiving her credit card statement with a charge for $250 – not the $2.50 she expected for the cookie recipe. She tries to make it right, but the department store’s accounting department tells her she’s SOL.
To get even, the woman is sharing the complete cookie recipe with everyone she knows – and please forward it to everyone you know to help her get even.
Yes, we want to believe we can help avenge the “little guy” who was taken by “big, bad corporate America.”
The cookie recipe story is actually a recirculation of another notable urban legend, says Snopes.com, one that started some 50 years ago with a Velvet Cake.
Outright scams and outdated dog listings aside, urban legends do serve a couple of purposes. They both warn and amuse us.
So laugh all you want – but don’t get taken for a ride. And don’t try to adopt Cookie and Coco, as they’ve already found a home.
Have you ever been taken for a ride by an e-mail or other Internet rumor, urban legend or scam?
Would you admit it if you were?
P.S. I told my friend who sent the Cookie and Coco message about the situation. His response: “I skeptically figure most such emails are scams and so don’t fwd them, but they were DOGS for God’s sake, with cute names and sad (adopt us please) faces! They totally got me cuz I’m a dog lover.” Heartstrings strike once again.
P.P.S. Any e-mail that begins with “THIS IS A TRUE STORY!” most likely isn’t.