We are sure you have seen them. These are the familiar “Fw: Fw: Fw: Fw: Fw: emails”, the chain emails.
We are not talking about funnies or “feel good” stories that we receive from time to time. We are talking about bogus emails and email hoaxes. We are talking about emails with messages covering subjects including: miraculous cures from certain plants, bad luck befalling upon email recipients for not forwarding the message, false traffic and driving incidents and advisories, product promotions, false warnings about products, companies and government policies, virus alerts hoaxes, and false accusations against certain people or government,
There are so many reasons for forwarding this type of email to our friends list. But whatever reasons you have, think of the consequences of your action if an email we are forwarding is a bogus email.
We read somewhere that an average email has something like 80 words using up about 25kb in file size. If this calculation is correct, imagine the amount of productivity losses on account of a bogus email. Even at only one second per word, an email with 85 words would take 80 seconds or 1 minute and 20 seconds to read.
What if the same email has reached 1,000 inboxes? 10,000 inboxes? 100,000 inboxes? That would be 80,000 seconds (1,333.33 minutes or 22.22 hours), 800,000 seconds (13,333.33 minutes or 222.20 hours) or 8,000,000 seconds (133,333.33 seconds or 2,222.20 hours). These 2,222.20 downtime hours would be the equivalent of one year work of more than one employee working 40 hours a week.
What if that same email has reached more than 100,000 inboxes? And what if the bogus email is more than 80 words, which is not unusual. This post is 840 words, more than 10x longer than an 80-word email but definitely much shorter than the length of bogus emails I have seen.
That surely is a lot of productivity losses, isn’t it?
And that is only for the time spent in reading those emails. This is not counting the cost of bandwidth used to transmit and receive those emails, and the hard disk space they occupy.
All for what?
We are not saying that every “Fw: Fw: Fw: Fw: Fw: email” is bogus. But the likelihood that it is bogus is very high.
So how do you detect a bogus email? You will be surprised that it is not difficult to detect bogus emails. Bogus emails are their own enemies. There are patterns that email hoax or bogus email writers could not resist.
Look for these signs:
1. Action is required
The email is asking you: “Send this email to everyone in your address book” or something like: “Forward this email to your friends so that it may reach millions of people around the globe.”
2. No verifiable sources
The email contains claims but no verifiable references are given to back up its claims.
Legitimate competitions and product promotions usually provide a link to a company website or publication. It is to their benefit to provide that additional information. In many countries, they are required by law to disclose that information. In Australia, for example, commercial emails are required under the Spam Act 2003 to provide information like who authorised the issue of the email as well the address of the sender. Real virus warnings will most likely give a link to a reputable virus information website. Emails containing government or organization policy and research information are likely to include supporting sources such as news articles, websites or other publications.
3. Writing style
(a) Email is written in a style or a language which is emotive and with liberal use of words suggesting urgency
(b) Email is written in highly technical language
(c) Email is usually riddled with words or phrases written in ALL CAPITAL LETTERS
If you receive an email with one or more of these signals, you should be on guard that the email may be bogus.
Before hitting the Forward button and start sending out the email to your friends, why not do a little bit of checking. There are a number of online sources that you can use to check if the email is bogus. For starters, why not use your favourite search engine? These days, you can search practically every piece of information. Enter the keywords used in the email, and your search engine will give you leads to other information sites about the subject.
The other day we received an FW: email about onions being “virus flu remedy” and “left over onions are poisonous.” The email also made this appeal at the end: “Please pass it on to all you love and care.” We simply searched “onions virus flu remedy”, and what did we find? The email is bogus and has been going around the Internet for many years now. According to reports, this information about onions being “virus flu remedy” is an urban legend which keeps on re-surfacing sometimes in different format.
But if you cannot be bothered doing this type of verification, why pass on an email which you have not verified. Why not simply delete the email. After all, what have you got to lose if you don’t forward it?
Want to keep the email just in case it is true? That’s really up to you. If you think it’s worth the space it occupies in your mailbox, go ahead. But do not ~ repeat, do not ~ forward it to friends.
If you forward the email, and it turned out to be a bogus email, you have so much to lose. Others including your friends may even think that you are very gullible.
Yes, at stake is your own credibility.