A Compendium of Known Internet Hoaxes

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Identifier Notes
2400 Baud Modem Virus Possibly the first virus hoax (October, 1988), it claimed that a virus contracted from a BBS would infect 2400 baud modems and corrupt the hard drives of computers connected to them
A.I.D.S Virus Warns people that a message titled "Open: Very Cool!" will destroy their hard drive, RAM, sound card, speakers, and even their mouse
AIDS Needles A warning that people are putting HIV-infected needles in the coin slots of pay phones. See "Deadly Mix." There's also a variant about HIV-infected needles under the handles of gas pumps.
AOL 4.0 Cookie Warns people that AOL 4 creates a cookie that contains all the info about your system and sends it back to AOL.
AOL4free Claims that a program called "aol4free.com" will erase the hard drive of the target computer after "eating" the antivirus software that "comes with Windows 95" (there is no such beast)
ASP Virus Warns people that the Association of Shareware Professionals (ASP) is distributing a virus
The Aspartame Warning Warns people that aspartame (Nutrasweet) causes Multiple Sclerosis and Lupus (SLE)
Bill Gates/Beta Email Tracking Application (BETA) Purports to be from Bill Gates. Offers $1000 and a copy of Windows 98 to each person who forwards the message to 1000 recipients
Bloat MPEG MP3 Audio Virus A warning about a bogus virus called "Bloat" that infects media player software and fills up the user's hard disk
Blue Mountain Warns people not to open Blue Mountain "E-cards."
Buddy List Warns people that the file buddylst.zip will send your passwords to someone over the Internet
Budweiser Frogs A warning not to download a "Budweiser Frogs" screensaver
Chain Letter Warns people to forward the message to 20 people or have bad luck (or be infected with a virus in one week)
Chicken, Devil, or other Animated Character Warns people not to click on a chicken (devil, et al.) that appears on their screen because it will crash their computer and damage their hard disk
Infected Cookies Warns people about getting infected "cookies." This isn't possible, since cookie files aren't executed, just read.
The Cookie Story Gives people a (decent) chocolate chip cookie recipe, claiming it came from Neiman-Marcus. Earlier (printed) versions date back to the early part of the century. Before Neiman-Marcus it was a Mrs. Fields cookie recipe, and before that it was a red velvet cake from the Waldorf-Astoria.
The Coolest Chain Letter Promises a 'cool video clip' after the letter is forwarded to 11 people
Deadly Mix (LSD/Strychnine) A warning not to use pay phones coated with "poison"
Death69 Virus Very silly. Claims to have been created by "Death-Blaze" and actually to physically degrade or "eat" the hard disk
Death Ray Virus Even sillier than Death69. Claims that it will cause computer to "explode in a hellish blast of glass fragments and flame"
Deeyenda Virus Typical "wipes out your hard drive if you download it" hoax
Don't Flash your Headlights Warns people not to flash headlights at an oncoming car with no lights on, as it will cause the gang initiate in that car to shoot at you
Dying of Some Disease Claims a child is dying and wants emails from everyone (also usually claims the American Cancer Society will pay x cents for each email)
Elf Bowling/Frogapult Virus Hoax Chain letter that states that these two games by NStorm are infected with unidentified 'malicious code.' So long as these games are downloaded directly from the NStorm site (http://www.nstorm.com), this isn't true.
Email or get a Virus Threatens that if you don't forward this email to 20 other people within one week, your system will be infected with a virus that will "slowly delete 1 file a day."
Flashing IM Warns people that a "flashing IM" on AOL will steal their passwords
Flesh-eating Bananas Warns people not to eat bananas from Costa Rica, because they might be infected with the bacteria that causes necrotizing fasciitis, or 'flesh-rot.' Purports to be "validated" by the Centers for Disease Control.
Foward for Money Tells you that you or someone 'worthy' will receive money for each time the message is forwarded
Free Vacation Warns people not to open a message titled "You Won A Free Vacation" because it will erase their hard disks
Geeks Bearing Gifts A very funny warning about not accepting any large wooden horses full of geek programmers
Get More Money In English and also a German version.
Ghost.exe This was an executable file that simply caused ghosts to fly around on the screen as an advertisement for a software company. Somehow the word got around that it contained a virus or trojan that would destroy the user's hard drive, which was totally false
Good Times One of the first and longest-lived of all computer hoaxes. Claims a virus attached to an email message titled "Good Times" will destroy your hard drive
Hacky Birthday Virus Tells people to leave computers turned on during a certain date to avoid being infected with a trojan or virus called "Hacky Birthday"
Infected Graphics Warns people not to download graphics (you can't get a virus from graphics files). NB: Or can you? Recent (late '99) evidence suggests that perhaps you can. Is nothing sacred?
The Gullibility Virus A humorous warning about gullible people on the Internet
Hackingburgh Virus References the FCC and Java, using a few technical terms like "MBR" and "multipartite" to sound authentic
Internet Cleanup Day Informs people that the Internet will be "shut down for 24 hours in order to allow us to clean it," ignoring the fact that if people followed the instructions and disconnected all network devices, there wouldn't be any Internet left to clean.
Internet Tax/Charge Warns people about a supposed bill before Congress that would allow local service providers to charge long distance rates for dial up Internet connections. Another version warns people that US/UK/Australian legislators are considering a bill (usually noted as "602P") that will levy a charge for every email message sent to make up for a 'shortfall' being experienced by the Postal service as a result of the popularity of email.
Irina A publicity stunt perpetrated by Penguin Books; the "Irina Virus" is just another version of the "Good Times" hoax
It Takes Guts to Say 'Jesus' Several variants. Very common in Spring, 1999
Join the Crew Just the old "Good Times" hoax renamed in 1997
Klingerman Virus An email chain letter hoax about a 'large blue envelope' that people receive in the postal mail marked "A gift for you from the Klingerman Foundation." Inside is supposedly a sponge containing a virus that causes 'severe dysentery.' It contains the usual references to the CDC and other agencies, to appear more legitimate.
Lighthouse that won't Move An "urban legend" about an encounter between a US Naval ship or Task Force and a lighthouse in the Canadian Maritimes, in which the captain of a US aircraft carrier or battleship (variously identified as the Enterprise, Lincoln, Missouri, et al.), insists that the Canadian "vessel" change course to avoid a collision, unaware that it is a lighthouse. This story actually is at least 30-40 years old, and possibly much, much older.
Londhouse Virus Warns people not to use Altavista or some other search engine
MMF (Make Money Fast) A newsgroup-based version of the "Good Times" hoax since October, 1996
Matra R-440 Crotale Virus(es) Claims to be a Pakistan-originated set of viruses that execute malicious macros on the target machine
Memphis.98.MMS Virus Tells people about a virus that affects only non-Microsoft applications, and asks them to send information to "VirusWatch@juno.com"
Microsoft Piracy Tracing Claims that Microsoft verifies the legitimacy of your Windows 98 software whenever you log on to an ISP. Microsoft wishes this one were true, I'll wager
Naughty Robot Claims to have stolen credit card numbers and other info from user's computer through a "tiny hole in the World Wide Web"
Organ Theft Really silly warning about organized crime rings that steal organs from college students or business travelers
Pen Pal Essentially another version of the "Good Times" hoax
A Really Bad Day Actually a clever parody combining many hoax stories
Red Alert Claims that using Microsoft Internet Explorer can lead to a computer being "completely wiped," even the "BIOS and CMOS"
Speeding Ticket Overpayment Claims that if you overpay a speeding ticket and then don't cash the refund, no points will be assessed against your license
Time Bomb Macro Virus Tells Windows 95 users that a virus will activate on some date that will destroy their computer, but that the message they are reading is actually from Apple and installs an 'antidote' for the time bomb virus.
Unauthorized Music Downloading A notice from the bogus "Bureau of Entertainment Executive Rights" that recipient is under investigation for music piracy. It demands that the user pay "an incurred penalty."
Undelivered Mail A variant of the "Good Times" hoax
Walt Disney, Jr. An extension of the "BETA" hoax that offers $5000 or a free Disneyworld vacation if the message is sent to 13,000 recipients.
Waterproof Sunscreen Warns people that a child went blind after getting waterproof sunscreen in his eyes
Win a Holiday Will "erase your hard drive"
Wobbler One of several variants that claim to be "much worse than "Melissa"." Supposedly comes attached to an email message called "California," and uses the "reformat function from Norton Utilities" to wipe out the recipient's hard drive.
YUKON3U.mp Virus Supposedly a "newsgroup" virus/trojan (no such thing) that will trigger on a certain day. Lots of confused, misused pseudotechnical jargon

For more comprehensive listings, try the CIAC HoaxBusters site, Snopes, and the Urban Legends site.

Here's a nice page that tracks email and fake Web page scams


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revised 2/17/2004, Robert G. Ferrell