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Hoaxes & Myths

Hoaxes

eMail, message board postings, web pages, and web sites that attempt to disseminate false or misleading information.

Can't find what you're looking for below? Check these hoax debunking sources...
About.com Urban Legends & Folklore | Snopes.com | TruthOrFiction.com

Click on the title to see the complete hoax text, a description, brief history, reporting date in a new browser window. In many cases, the hoax description site may also include reactions from hoax subjects, an extensive history, and provide links to additional analysis and interviews.

Hoaxes | eMail Warnings

Hoaxes

U of Toronto Semen vs Human Speech Study - In this hoax, the University of Toronto is supposedly conductiong a study of semen on human speech. Male volunteers will supposedly be paid $145 each to receive fellatio. The offer on this flyer shouldn't be totally dismissed as untrue... desparate people do take desparate measures. An some people might believe that this is good work if you can get it! Snopes.com has a photograph of the original flyer, which was also posted on the Internet.

Flesh-eating Bananas - In this hoax, the CDC warns of bananas from Costa Rica that are supposedly infected with necrotizing fasciitis (flesh-eating bacteria). This is a hoax.

Harry Potter Hoax - This hoax, being passed off as factual, is a copy of a real satirical article published in The Onion, a popular web site featuring satirical articles. This is a hoax. While the article was published, neither it or the version being circulated contain factual information. A variant of this hoax claims that the far-right American Family Association sent out a warning. Even though the AFA frequently alters facts in order to fit their agenda, they surprisingly dispute the context of this hoax on their web site.

Granny Shoots Balls Off Rapists - In this hoax, a gun-toting Austrailian grandmother blows the testicles off the two men who raped her granddaughter. This is a hoax. Snopes.com has a fun discussion.

Dead Man Works for a Week - The British press would have us believe that a poor chap in New York named Turklebaum died of a massive coronary and sat at his desk for 5 days before anyone noticed that he had died. This is a hoax. This hoax circulated rapidly through Great Britain even though it originated on 12/5/00 in the U.S. tabloid Weekly World News. The U.S. press - not known to rely on stories in supermarket tabloids - didn't pick up on the tragedy.

The Suicide of Roland Opus - This 1995 hoax has a young New Yorker, despondent for no apparent reason, jumping from the top of a building in an attempt to do himself in. The twist is that is that instead of dying from the fall, he is shot in the head by his father as he falls past his parents window. This is a hoax. In another, longer and not so well written variant of this tale, the shooter isn't his father (page 2 of 2).

The Bill for Zero, Paid With the Check for Zero - This is the tale of a man who was continually billed $0.00 by a credit card company. After continual badgering he wrote a check for $0.00 and mailed it in. Seems that the check bounced. Although we'd like to believe this story, this is a hoax. TruthOrFiction.com includes the full text of this hoax.

Collegiate Power Lifter Suffers Prolapsed Rectum - This is the story of a collegiate weight lifter who suffered a prolapsed rectum during the power lifting championships at Pennsylvania State University. This is a hoax. The story is supposedly from CBS, but the poor writing style alone exposes this as a hoax, and the photo would NEVER be distributed in any form by CBS. Although the accompanying photo is real, it has nothing to do with the story. Snopes.com reprints the phony "article" in full, shows a photo of the supposed incident, then discusses the hoax. WARNING: The photo is nothing less than completely and utterly disgusting - and can seriously make even the strongest person nauseous. If you want to know what Snopes has to say about this hoax, but don't want to be assaulted by the photo, write to this site's webmaster for a copy of the text.

If you would like to read more about this medical condition, check out these discussions (out of 664 articles available on the web): Gale Encyclopedia of Medicine on Rectal Prolapse, HealthyBowel.com - Rectal Prolapse.

Doctors Find Live Worm in Patient's Eye [page 1], [page 2, the photos], [page 3, the facts] - This hoax would have you believe that your eyes can be infested with worms by blowing dust. Some pretty explicit and disturbing photos accompany this yarn. But while the story itself is a ruse, the photos are quite real. About.com did extensive research and found the original source of the photos - a scientific article published in 2000 reporting on the Botfly found in Central and South America. Unfortunately, North America has a less invasive cousin, the Blowfly... the facts are good, albeit quesy, reading. Overall, this is a hoax.

Warnings

Area Code 809 Scam Hoax - This is a hoax email that describes a real 809 scam (refer to "Area Code 809 Scam" on the "eMail Scams" page). It is a re-write of a real 1996 ScamBusters.org report with alot of errors added - including incorrect 809 numbers. ScamBusters responded in1999. This is a hoax.

Note that CIAC's link to the Better Business Bureau is broken, but the link to the Telecommunications Research & Action Center (TRAC), is still valid, so that you can look up area codes.

Warning to YAHOO Users Hoax - In this hoax, YAHOO users are instructed to respond or their accounts will be deleted from the YAHOO servers. This is a hoax. This is a variant of the Instant Messenger Hoax.

Hotmail Urgent Message - This is a fairly elaborate hoax using pirated graphics. The message urges you to keep your Hotmail account open by forwarding the message to 15 other Hotmail users. This is a hoax. Another variant of this hoax gives you a second warning, and a third warning shortens your response time to 30 minutes.

Antiperspirant Causes Breast Cancer - This warning claims that anti-perspirants cause breast cancer by plugging up the sweat glands under your arms. This is a hoax. The American Cancer Society responds with an in-depth discussion of the various parts of the original chain letter (CIAC's link is re-directed, this link takes you right to the ACS "eMail Rumors" page).

Shampoo, Colgate Toothpaste Cause Cancer - This warning claims that an ingredient in most shampoos and Colgate toothpaste, Sodium Laureth Sulfate causes cancer in humans. This is a hoax. At one point, according to CIAC, the American Cancer Society debunked this rumor, but the ACS has since deleted it's discussion of this matter on it's web site - CIAC's link is broken.

Sunscreen Causes Blindness - This warning claims that the author's best friend's son permanently lost his sight when he accidently got waterproof sunscreen in his eyes. This is a hoax. Although not a good thing, sunscreen in your eyes does not cause blindness. Per CIAC, the American Academy of Ophthalmology debunked this claim on their site, but with the re-design of AAO's site, the CIAC link was broken.

Tampons, Asbestos and Dioxin - This warning claims that a researcher at the University of Colorado at Boulder found that tampons contain toxic levels of Asbestos and Dioxin. This is a hoax. The FDA has weighed in on this claim stating that "The available scientific evidence does not support these rumors". Check out the FDA Center for Devices and Radiological Health's full report in the Consumer Information section of their web site (the CIAC link is outdated). Snopes.com also has a very nice point-by-point discussion of this topic on their web site.

Instant Messenger Hoax - Although this warning warns that AOL will discontinue free use of Instant Messenger in July 1999 - a rather outdated threat, there is a good chance that this chain letter will be updated and re-circulated in the near future. This is a hoax.

Aspartame (NutraSweet) Hoax - Two variants of this VERY long warning claim that the sugar substitute "Aspartame" is the direct cause of many, if not all, of mankind's woes. This is a hoax. One chain letter was supposedly authored by a Betty Martini, while the other was supposedly authored by a Nancy Markle... neither contain any factual information. There are dozens of web sites devoted to expounding the horrors of this product, most can be found by misspelling the word "asparatame". CIAC has lots of links to agencies and organizations that have something to add to this discussion.

Two-way Mirror Test - This warning is based on the author's apparent lack of information. This is a hoax. The test does tell you whether the mirror is a "front-surfaced" mirror or a standard mirror. "Front-surfaced" mirrors are normally used only in scientific applications (i.e. telescopes), and are very expensive. A two-way mirror is a standard mirror without the backing paint, so this test doesn't live up to the author's claims.

Voting Rights Expire for Blacks Warning - This warning is claims that African-Americans will loose their right to vote in 2007 when The Civil Rights Act expires. This is a hoax. The 15th amendment to the U.S. Constitution (passed on February 26, 1869) clearly states that the right to vote can NOT be denied on account of "...race, color, or previous condition of servitude...". The Civil Rights Act was written to enforce the provisions of Section 1.The Act itself does NOT have an expiration date, but a provision that keeps the Federal government from controlling elections will be reevaluated and updated in 2007.

Canola Oil Warning - This warning claims that Canola Oil is actually a toxic brew. This is a hoax. The text of the hoax is extensive - a long read. CIAC provides a link to the correct information.

Progesterex Warning - This Florida-based chain letter warns that rapists are now using a drug called Progesterex to permanently sterilize their victims after they rape them. This is a hoax. The University of Florida, College of Pharmacy weighs in with the news that there is NO such drug.

Credit Info Opt-Out Hoax - This warning claims that the 3 major credit bureaus have been allowed to disseminate all of your credit information to anyone who asks for it, unless you opt-out within 60 days. This is, for the most part, a hoax. The phone number given in the hoax is used by the major credit reporting bureaus to allow you to opt out from receiving pre-approved credit offers. CIAC's site discusses this hoax in-depth, and both the Privacy Rights Clearinghouse and Equifax have weighed in on this.

Lethal Rat Urine - One of the two variants of this chain letter, authored in 1998, tells of a man who died after breathing airborne particles from rat or mouse droppings, and both variants warn that rat urine can also kill you if ingested. This is a hoax. While these incidents never really happened, there is the very real and deadly Hantavirus in the Western U.S. which has similar symptoms. This chain letter is a hoax, but it's warning is based on fact.

Check out the CDC's discussion of the Hantavirus. WebMD web site also has an extensive discussion of this virus (on multiple indexed pages).

Flashing IM Warning - This warning would have you believe that a flashing "IM" in an instant message is an indicator that your password is being stolen. This is a hoax. Snopes provides a brief, but interesting discussion of this topic as it relates to AOL and ICQ. Snopes.com also provides a link to an article at CNET's News.com about hacking into ICQ.

Crocodile Eats Golfer [page 1], [page 2, the photo], [page 3, facts] - In this warning (with photographic "proof") claims that a crocodile has eaten a golfer in Florida. This is a hoax. Experts agree that although the photo is real (taken in Kalimantan Borneo in 1997), this particular species of croc is native to Indonesia, and no humans have been attacked and killed by crocs in Florida (although there are crocs in the Everglades).

IRS e-Audit Warning Hoax - This warning really did appear on the Michigan Department of Treasury web site for about a week, but the IRS determined in an investigation, that the incidents it warned of didn't actually happen - it was a joke and had no malicious intent. This is a hoax. CIAC's site gives some good suggestions for dealing with requests for your personal information.

Dioxins vs Plastic Containers - This warning claims that in a televised interview, Dr Edward Fujimoto from Castle Hospital warned that carcinogens, specifically dioxins, are released (a) when water is frozen in plastic bottles, (b) when food is cooked in plastic containers in a microwave, or (c) when plastic wrap (specifically Saran Wrap™) is placed over food in a microwave. Although this warning is a fabrication, it has some merit. Snopes.com has done a thorough investigation, and based on their report, plastic container users should be able to come to their own conclusion. Click on the link above to read the report.

 

 

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