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Internet hoaxes, email rumors and urban legends


Hoax = False, deliberately deceptive information
UL = Urban Legend - a popularly believed narrative, typically false
Rumor = Anecdotal claims - may be true, false, or in between
Junk = Flotsam and jetsam of the Net


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2-Year-Old Tsunami Victim in Khao Lak, Thailand
TRUE/OUTDATED: Emailed images of a 2-year-old tsunami victim found battered and bruised but alive in Khao Lak, Thailand.

412-Pound Deer Killed (Photos)
Emailed photos allegedly show a 412-pound deer killed by a hunter in Clarion County, Pennsylvania (or in Nebraska).

1943 NY Times Front Page on Warsaw Ghetto Uprising
Circulating via email, an image purporting to show the front page of the May 10, 1943 edition of the New York Times with a headline declaring that the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising against Nazi oppression was an "over-reaction."

8-Year-Old Iranian Child Caught Stealing Bread (Photos)
Emailed photos purport to show the cruel punishment of an 8-year-old Iranian boy -- consisting of running over his arm with a truck -- who was caught stealing bread.

Dial 112 in London Tube Emergency
Email flier claims that dialing 112 on one's mobile phone during an emergency in the London underground diverts the call via satellite, hence it's a better way to contact authorities than dialing 999.

'300 People Who Believe in Gay Marriage' Chain Letter
'I told a guy that I could find 300 people who believe in gay marriage before he could find 300 people who do not,' reads this pointless waste of bandwidth.

'300 People Who Believe in God' Chain Letter
2001 chain letter newly revived: "I made this bet that I could find 300 people who believe in God before my friend could find 300 people who do not."

The 400 Christians of Meulaboh
According to this email tale, 400 Christians living in the predominantly Muslim city of Meulaboh, Indonesia were miraculously saved from death in the December 26, 2004 tsunami because they had left to celebrate Christmas in the hills after being told they could not do so in town.

6/11 Terror Attack on a U.S. City?
Friend-of-a-friend email rumor warns of indications that a terrorist attack may take place in a large U.S. city (probably New York) on 6/11/04.

$10 Surcharge for Pay-at-Pump Gasoline
Forwarded email claims a customer buying gasoline at a Bloomington, Minnesota gas station was charged an extra $10 for paying at the pump with a bank card.

$20 Bill Depicts 9/11 Terrorist Attacks
Can images "commemorating" the World Trade Center and Pentagon attacks of last September 11 be seen on a properly folded U.S. $20 bill?

4th of July Terrorist Attack on St. Louis
Anecdotal "evidence" that terrorists may be planning to attack the city of St. Louis during the July 4 holiday.

809 Area Code Phone Scam Alert
More or less true! This email alert originated in a reputable newsletter and warns of a known telephone scam.

90# Phone Scam Alert
A half dozen or so variations of this alert have been in wide circulation since 1998. The scam is real, but it does not affect typical residential phone customers.

Aaron Russell Steinmetz: Missing Child
Another defunct alert. Andrew Steinmetz was kidnapped by his father, then recovered safe and sound by authorities.

Abandoned Black Lab Puppies Need a Home
September 2007 email flier of indeterminate origin purports to seek a home for six abandoned black lab mix puppies.

ABC Responds to Viewer Complaint About Gays
When Jim Neugent sent an email to ABC complaining about an episode of The Practice, he got more in response than he bargained for.

Abercrombie & Fitch Catalog Sells 'Group Sex' to Teens
Forwarded email flier urges consumers to protest Abercrombie & Fitch's 2003 'A&F Quarterly' magazine, which features young adults in various stages of undress engaging in 'group sex.'

Abercrombie & Fitch Giveaway
A prank, basically a sequel to the "free clothes from The Gap" chain letter below.

'Abortion Art' Project at Yale
Yale art student claims her senior project will document her artificially impregnating herself and inducing miscarriages.

ACLU Objects to Marines Praying
Has the ACLU raised objections to U.S. service personnel praying based on a photo showing a group of Marines with bowed heads?

ACLU vs. Crosses on Federal Property
Is the American Civil Liberties Union against displaying crosses on federal property?

Afghan Women's Rights Petition
Not a hoax, but a sincere effort gone astray.

Air Force Jets Fly in 'USA' Formation Over 'Taj Mahal'
Photo purports to show a Veterans Day flyby of T-38 Talon jet fighters in a formation spelling out "USA" over the "Taj Mahal" building at Randolph Air Force Base.

Al Gore Airlifted Katrina Vitcims out of New Orleans
Email flier credits former vice-president Al Gore with arranging the airlift evacuation of more than 140 hospital patients from New Orleans in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.

Al Gore's Electric Bill
Forwarded email claims that global warming crusader Al Gore's personal energy consumption far exceeds that of the average American household.

Al Gore vs. Christianity
The U.S. Vice President allegedly calls Christians "a blight on the environment."

Alaska Airlines Flight 261
Did a crashing airliner unaccountably remain aloft for nine minutes while a pastor's wife led fellow passengers in prayer? Albino Fawn (Photos)
Emailed images of an albino fawn found near Stanley, North Dakota, the Bolivar Peninsula in Texas, or West Liberty, Kentucky, depending on which version of the story you believe.

Alien Smuggled Inside Dashboard of Car
The accompanying story is suspect, but photos of an illegal immigrant being smuggled into the U.S. crammed inside the dashboard of a vehicle are authentic.

Allah or Jesus?
Email describes an encounter between a Christian minister and a Muslim imam in which the latter admits that his religion requires violent jihad (holy war) against all infidels (non-believers in Islam).

Alligator w/Deer in Its Mouth on Cross Lake (Photos)
Emailed photos purportedly taken at Cross Lake, Louisiana show a gator moving through the water with a full-grown deer in its mouth.

Allstate Fires Manager for Christian Beliefs on Homosexuality
Email flier from the American Family Association urges recipients to boycott Allstate Insurance Company due to the alleged firing of an employee for expressing 'Christian beliefs' against homosexuality.

Alyssa Bruno, Birthday Cards for Cancer Victim
Chain email asks all recipients to send a birthday card and a penny to Alyssa Bruno, who has been diagnosed with brain cancer and will be celebrating her sixth birthday on August 2, 2006.

Amazing Farm Music Machine (Video)
Emailed video of an "amazing music machine" allegedly manufactured out of farm equipment parts at the University of Iowa.

Amazing Rooftop Helicopter Landing (Photo)
Emailed image of a U.S. military helicopter accomplishing a precarious rooftop landing and pick-up in Afghanistan.

Amber Alert via Text Message
False messages claiming two girls were kidnapped by the driver of a brown Jeep Liberty are circulating via cell phone text messages.

America: The Good Neighbor
The text of this supposedly "recent" Canadian tribute to the U.S. is authentic, but was originally authored in 1973.

American Flag v. Mexican Flag
Emailed images show Hispanic high school students in California demonstrating against proposed immigration legislation by hoisting a Mexican flag above an upside-down American flag.

Amina Lawal Petition
Amnesty International disavows inaccurate 2003 email campaign on behalf of Amina Lawal, a Nigerian woman sentenced to death by stoning for allegedly committing adultery.

Amy Bruce Chain Letter
Yet another opportunity to save a dying child who doesn't exist.

Animal-Human Hybrid (Photo)
Circulating via email, an unsettling photograph of what appears to be a half-human, half-animal creature suckling her hybrid offspring.

Anne Kilkenny on Sarah Palin
Widely-forwarded email written by Wasilla, Alaska resident Anne Kilkenny questions Sarah Palin's fitness to be Vice-President.

Anti-Abortion Petition
In which we are told that a pregnant girl's boyfriend has agreed to let her to bear the child if 500 people sign this petition. Sheesh.

Anti-Bush Clothing/Laptop Bag Label
Translated into English, the French portion of an American product label reads: 'We are sorry that our president is an idiot. We did not vote for him.'

Antiperspirants Cause Breast Cancer
This false rumor has been thoroughly trounced by medical professionals.

AOL to Charge for Instant Messages
Age-old false rumor targeting America Online members.

AOL/Intel Merger Giveaway
Just forward this message, sit back, and wait for your check to arrive! And wait. And wait. And wait.

AOL/Microsoft Merger Giveaway
Another bogus "email tracking" offer.

AOL/Netscape Merger Giveaway
Sorry, folks. Microsoft will not be handing out cash to everyone who forwards this message.

AP Releases 'Sports Rolodex' Phone Numbers by Mistake
Circulating via forwarded email - a long, long list of phone numbers of important sports figures accidentally distributed by the Associated Press.

Applebee's Giveaway
Just forward this chain letter to nine of your closest friends and win a free gift certificate to Applebee's Restaurants. Not.

Asha Degree: Missing Child
A valid email alert which unfortunately contains no contact information.

Ashley Flores: Missing Child
Email flier seeks help locating an allegedly missing 13-year-old girl from Philadelphia named Ashley Flores.

Aspartame (NutraSweet) Warning
"Rabidly inaccurate" email flyer dating from 1995, alleging that NutraSweet causes just about every malady known to humankind. Scientists balk.

Asteroid May Collide with Earth
Internet postings say a newly-discovered object may be on a devastating collision course with our planet.

The Atheists' Holiday
An atheist and his ACLU lawyer go before a judge to complain that while Christians have Christmas and Easter, and Jews have Yom Kippur and Hanukkah, there is no such holiday for atheists.

Atlanta Restaurant Closed for Serving Rats, Mice, etc. as Food
Email hoax claims an 'Asian/Chinese' restaurant in Atlanta, Georgia was recently closed by authorities for offering dishes made of rats, mice, kittens and puppies.

ATM Envelope Poisonings
False rumor declares that a bank customer died after licking a cyanide-coated deposit envelope.

ATM Scam Warning
True! Various warnings describe how thieves rig ATM machines to withhold bank cards which are later retrieved and used to empty victims' bank accounts.

Attempted Child Abduction at Sam's Club
Three email versions are now circulating of this decades-old (and false) urban legend.

Austin Voter Finds Vote Switched from Democratic to Republican
Email flier reports the experience of an Austin, Texas woman who did a final check of her ballot after voting a straight Democratic ticket and found her choice for president changed from Kerry to Bush.

Automakers' Contributions to 9/11 Relief
This email alleging that non-U.S. auto manufacturers did not contribute significantly to post-September 11 relief efforts is almost entirely false.

Avon E-Bear Promotion for Breast Cancer Research
Promotional email asks recipients to 'send an e-bear' to raise money for breast cancer research by visiting Avon Canada's Website.

Backseat Killers & Ankle-Slashing Gangs
Two more well-known urban legends show up as an email warning.

Baltimore Airport: Passengers Give Up Seats to U.S. Troops on Leave from Iraq
TRUE: In the overcrowded Baltimore Airport on October 27, ordinary citizens voluntarily gave up their airline seats to U.S. troops on two-week leave from Iraq.

Bank ATMs Converted to Steal IDs of Bank Customers
TRUE: Email flier describes how criminals install special equipment on ATMs to steal unsuspecting bank customers' card numbers and PINs.

Bananas Spread Flesh-Eating Disease
Necrotizing fasciitis, a rare and deadly disease, allegedly infects an entire crop of Costa Rican fruit.

Bananas Spread Flesh-Eating Disease (South Africa Variant)
2005 variant of a forwarded email warning that shipments of bananas from Costa Rica are infected with bacteria that cause necrotizing fasciitis ('flesh-eating disease').

Bankruptcies and Gift Cards
Email flier lists several companies that have supposedly filed for bankruptcy, warning that gift cards from these businesses won't be valid for much longer.

Barack Obama Antichrist
Email rumor claims charismatic U.S. presidential candidate Barack Obama is the Antichrist prophesied in the New Testament.

Barack Obama Changes Presidential Seal
Email flier says Barack Obama used a podium featuring an altered version of the Presidential Seal during a June 2008 campaign appearance.

Barack Obama's Church
Email rumor labels presidential candidate Barack Obama a racist for attending a church that describes itself as "unashamedly black" with a "non-negotiable commitment to Africa."

Barack Obama's Economic Advisers
Forwarded email alleges that three former Fannie Mae executives accused of improprieties -- Franklin Raines, Tim Howard, and Jim Johnson -- are all now serving as top economic advisers to Barack Obama.

Barack Obama Explains National Anthem Stance
Circulating via email, an alleged quote from Barack Obama explains why he doesn't wear a flag pin or salute the flag during the national anthem.

Barack Obama's Foreign Fundraising
Phony op-ed column attributed to New York Times writer Maureen Dowd claims Barack Obama has accepted campaign donations from foreign countries including Saudi Arabia and Iran.

Barack Obama: 'I've Visited 57 States'
Forwarded email quotes a campaign-weary Barack Obama saying he has campaigned (or plans to campaign) in 'all 57 states.' Lo and behold, allegedly, it turns out there are 57 Islamic states.

Barack Obama Isn't a Natural-Born Citizen
Email rumor claims that Barack Obama is ineligible to become president because according to the laws in effect at the time of his birth he is not a natural-born citizen of the U.S.

The Obama / Kenya Connection
Emailed letter from American missionaries in Kenya claims Barack Obama is a racist Muslim who fomented political chaos in Africa and is dedicated to worldwide jihad.

Obama on the Phone (Photo)
Emailed photo shows presidential candidate Barack Obama speaking on the phone while apparently holding the receiver upside-down.

Barack Obama Quote
Supposedly uttered by Barack Obama: "My friends, we live in the greatest nation in the history of the world. I hope you'll join with me as we try to change it."

Barack Obama Removes U.S. Flag from Campaign Plane
Email flier chastises presidential candidate Barack Obama for removing an image of the American flag from the tail of his campaign jet.

Barack Obama Is a 'Stealth' Muslim
Email rumor alleges that probable U.S. presidential candidate Sen. Barack Obama is actually a loyal Muslim who has lied about his religious background, including his claim to being a devoted Christian.

Barack Obama Snubs Troops on Visit to Afghanistan
[br] Email purportedly written by a U.S. Army captain claims Barack Obama shunned rank-and-file soldiers during his July 2008 visit to military installations in Afghanistan.

Barbara Bell & 'Women United Against War' Petition
Email petition falsely claims that a "Congresswoman Barbara Bell" led a walkout by 25 female members during the vote on a war powers resolution for President Bush.

Barbara Bush on Hurricane Katrina Refugess
A remark attributed to ex-first lady and mother-of-the-president Barbara Bush during a visit to the Hurricane Katrina refugee shelter in the Houston Astrodome.

Barbara Walters Interviews Afghan Woman on Gender Roles
In which TV interviewer Barbara Walters asks an Afghan woman why she still walks several paces behind her husband...

Bath & Body Works Giveaway
And free stuff from J. Crew, as well! Two more "email tracking" pranks to add to the ever-growing list.

Bear vs. Combine (Photos)
Emailed photos taken in a cornfield in Illinois, Minnesota, or Wisconsin (depending on version) show a black bear awakened from hibernation by a combine harvester.

Ben Stein's Christmas Confessions
Circulating via email, a commentary on the state of American culture attributed to author and game show host Ben Stein.

Beneful Dog Food Warning
Email flier warns that pet owners in different parts of the U.S. have reported the sudden deaths of dogs who ate Beneful Dog Food purchased at Wal-Mart in December 2006.

Best Buy 'Fraud Alert' Email Scam
An email claiming to be a "Fraud Alert" from BestBuy.com is actually a scam designed to trick people into divulging their personal information to identity thieves via bogus Websites.

Best Buy Return Policy
Forwarded email recounts a customer's nightmarish experience attempting to return merchandise and obtain a cash refund at a Best Buy store.

Bette Midler Letter to President Bush on Gay Marriage
A widely circulated email criticizing President Bush's stance on gay marriage is falsely attributed to Bette Midler.

'Bile Bears' in China (Petition)
This is a well-intended e-petition containing fairly accurate information, but "signing" it is a waste of time.

Bill 602P - a 5-Cent Tax on Email
They're at it again! The post office, we're told, wants to place a tax on every email delivered.

Bill Cosby's Write-in Platform for President
Circulating online, a 'presidential platform' attributed to 'write-in candidate' Bill Cosby. He did not write it.

Bill Gates' 11 Rules of Life
Circulating via email, the text of a speech allegedly given by Bill Gates in which he sets out 11 rules of life for today's high school students.

Bill Gates is the Antichrist!
It all adds up... to 666.

'Bill [Gates] Sux' Etched on Pentium Chip
Who would dare invite Satan's wrath in this way?

Bill Makes Anti-Gay Speech a Crime
Email alert circulated by conservative Christian group claims a new bill in Congress would make it a crime for pastors and churches to speak out against homosexuality.

Billy Graham in New Orleans
Email flier describes an evangelical gathering in New Orleans during which 87-year-old pastor Billy Graham allegedly led a procession through the French Quarter on his mobility scooter.

Bird Flu, Tamiflu and the Rumsfeld Connection
Forwarded email asserts a conspiratorial connection between the worldwide alarm over a possible avian flu pandemic and Donald Rumsfeld's financial interest in the company that patented the antiviral drug Tamiflu.

Biscuits for Brains
FLASH! Woman Shot in Head by Pillsbury Dough Boy!

The Bizarre Suicide of Ronald Opus
Circulating on the Internet since 1995 and still going strong.

Black Heritage Stamps to Be Discontinued
This rumor returns year after year, even though the U.S. Postal Service continues to issue new African American Heritage stamps annually.

'Black Jack' Pershing vs. Muslim Terrorists
Did U.S. General 'Black Jack' Pershing rid the Philippines of Islamic extremism in 1911 by executing a group of Muslim terrorists and burying them in a grave filled with pig's blood and entrails?

Black Voting Rights to Expire in 2007
This email alert, bouncing around the Internet since January 1997, has just about all of the facts wrong.

Black and White Twins (Photos)
Emailed images show a pair of twin sisters - one black, the other white - born to a British couple who both had mixed-race parents.

Blackout 2003 - Con Ed Reimbursements for Food Spoilage
Email flier claims electrical utility Con Edison will reimburse residential power customers in New York up to $350 for food spoilage caused by the August 14, 2003 blackout.

Blackout 2003 - Satellite Image
Emailed photo purports to show satellite view of the 2003 east coast blackout.

Blockbuster Coupon
Invalid "Blockbuster Night" coupon circulating via forwarded email promises free movies, popcorn, and soda through 12/31/2007.

Bloods Initiation Weekend - Don't Flash Your Headlights!
New email variant of a familiar urban legend claims that innocent people who flash their headlights at gang members' cars on the weekend of September 23 and 24, 2005 will be chased down and killed as part of a "gang initiation game."

Blue Packages w/Sponges Containing 'Lethal Substance'
A variant of 2000's "Klingerman Virus" alert. Pay it no heed.

'Blue Packages' Return
In the wake of the September 11 terrorist attacks, the Net is rife with variants of a year-old rumor about deadly chemicals and viruses circulating by parcel post (also known as the "Klingerman Virus").

'Blue Star' LSD Tattoo
Email alert claims that colorful cartoon stickers laced with LSD pose a threat to children everywhere.

Blue Whale Produces 400 Gallons of Sperm
Ever wondered why the sea is so salty? This emailed "Fact of the Day" (complete with photo documentation) claims that a blue whale produces 400 gallons of sperm in a single mating session. I don't buy it.

Bonsai Kitten Petition
"What follows may be hard to believe. Please bare [sic] in mind that Dr. Mengele, the Nazi war criminal, once said: 'The more we do, the less you seem to believe it.'"

'Book of Daniel' TV Show Features Dysfunctional Christian Family
Email alert from the American Family Association decries a new NBC series featuring a dysfunctional Christian family headed by a drug-addicted Episcopal priest.

Bottled Water: Don't Drink Bottled Water Kept in Car
Forwarded email warns women not to drink bottled water that has been left in a car because the heat supposedly releases cancer-causing toxins which "leak" from the plastic into the water.

Boycott Dunkin' Donuts!
Arab employees of Dunkin' Donuts were supposedly observed "celebrating" after the September 11 attacks.

Boycott France!
Best check the facts before tossing out your Cartier jewels and Yoplait yogurt. Not all the companies listed in the various "Boycott France" chain letters now circulating are actually French.

Boycott Middle Eastern Oil to Stop Terrorism
This reinvented "Gas Out" chain letter for 2002 claims that consumers can avoid lending support to terrorism by boycotting certain brands of gasoline.

Braedon Hembree Prayer Request
This call for prayers for a young boy who was very ill has been outdated for quite some time.

Breast Cancer Awareness Stamp
This email rumor circulating since 1998 is true: the U.S. Postal Service is selling special stamps and donating part of the proceeds to breast cancer research.

The Breast Cancer Site - Click to Donate Free Mammograms
TRUE: Clicking on sponsor's ads at the Breast Cancer Site provides funding for free mammograms to low-income women.

Breast Cancer Donation Websites (Yahoo, NFL for Her)
True, but outdated. The Yahoo Health and NFL for Her sites offered one-click donation pages in honor of Breast Cancer Awareness Month.

Breast Ogling Makes Men Live Longer
Tabloid journalism and email rumormongering intersect once again.

British Airways Offers Free Flights
New version of an old email hoax claims British Airways is giving away free flights to users who forward a promotional chain letter to at least five other people.

Britney Spears: Dead at 19
A radio prank aided and abetted by Internet hoaxers circumnavigates the globe.

Brown Recluse Spider Bite (Photos)
Emailed photos purport to show the progressive deterioration of a wound caused by the bite of a brown recluse spider.

Budweiser vs. Celebrating Arabs
Did a Budweiser employee in McFarland, California pull his product from the shelves of a convenience store where Arab employees were seen celebrating the September 11 attacks?

Budweiser Frogs Screen Saver 'Virus'
Circulating since 1997, this false alert claims that the popular Bud Frogs Screen Saver contains a destructive computer virus.

Bungee Jumper vs. Crocodile
Emailed video of a grizzly encounter between a bungee jumper and the crocodile awaiting him in the river below.

Burundanga Warning
Forwarded emails warn that criminals are using business cards impregnated with a potent street drug called burundanga (aka scopolamine) to incapacitate victims before attacking them.

Bush Leads a Teenager to Christ
For G.W. Bush, the new President of the U.S., there's always time to save souls - even at public banquets attended by thousands.

Bush to USS Lincoln: 'I Have the Balls'
Did President Bush radio the message 'I have the balls' to the flight deck of the aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln just before the jet transporting him touched down on May 1, 2003?

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