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(18) The Gullibility Virus

For use when someone sends you one of the above or any similar hoax.

Washington, D.C. -- The Institute for Investigation of Irregular Internet Phenomena announced today that many internet users are becoming infected by a new virus that causes them to believe without question every groundless story, legend and dire warnings that show up in their inbox or on their browser. The Gullibility Virus, as it's called, apparently makes people believe and forward copy of silly hoaxes related to cookie recipes, e-mail viruses, taxes on modems and get-rich quick schemes.

"These are not just readers or tabloids or people who buy lottery tickets based on fortune cookie numbers", a spokesman said. "Most are otherwise normal people , who would laugh at the same stories if told to them by a stranger on the street corner." However, once these people become infected with the Gullibility Virus, they believe anything they read on the Internet.

"My immunity to tall tales and bizarre claims is all gone", reported one weeping victim. "I believe every warning message and sick child story my friends forward to me, even though most of the messages are anonymous."

Another victim is now in remission, added, "When I first heard about Good Times Virus, I just accepted it without question. After all, there were dozens or other recipients on the mail header, so I thought the virus must be true." It was a long time , the victim said, before she could stand up at a Hoaxes Anonymous meeting and state, "My name is Jane and I've been hoaxed." Now, however, she is spreading the world. "Challenge and check whatever you read," she says.

Internet users are urged to examine themselves for symptoms of the virus which include the following:

* The willingness to believe improbable stories without thinking

* The urge to forward multiple copies of such stories to others

* A lack of desire to take three minutes to check to see if the story is true

T.C. is an example of someone recently infected. He told one reporter, "I read on the Net that the major ingredient in all shampoos makes your hair fall out, so I stopped using shampoo." When told about the Gullibility Virus, T.C. said he'd stop reading email, so he wouldn't become infected.

Anyone with symptoms like these is urged to seek help immediately. Experts recommend that at the first signs of gullibility, Internet users should rush to their favorite search engine and lookup the item tempting them to thoughtless credence. Most hoaxes, legends and tall tales have been widely discussed and exposed by the Internet community.

Courses in critical thinking also widely available and there is online help from many sources including:

* Department of Energy Computer Incident Advisory Capability @

* Symantec Anti Virus Research Center @

* McAfee Associates Virus Hoax List @

* The Urban Legends Web site @

* Urban Legends Reference Page @

* Datafellows Hoax Warnings @

Those who are still symptom free can help inoculate themselves against the Gullibility Virus by reading some good material such as:

* Evaluation of Information Sources @

Lastly, as a public service, Internet users can help stamp out the Gullibility Virus by sending copies of this message to anyone who forwards them a hoax.

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