So you think you’re brave? You must because you’re reading this even after my warning. Well, fear not. Trust me.
Though many are wise to the ways of the Internet, there are those who are not. There are thousands of untrue and outrageous stories about celebrities and politicians and illnesses and dangerous foods and medicines and aliens and religions and the list goes on and on and on. Some stories are almost true but a few facts are altered to suit the agenda of the senders. Some are ancient and do not apply to current politicians or administrations but politicians and administrations from decades ago. Many times we read posts about our current president when a little research finds the same rumor all the way back two or three presidencies—different politician, same old rumor. Some people just pull these weird stories out to attack whoever is in office currently. The stories with partial truths get people with faulty memories then they think “Hey, I heard about that!” Yeah, twenty years ago. In France, not here.
But the untrue and half true stories and the “fear factor” posts can actually be dangerous. A rumor about a celebrity doesn’t hit home half as much as learning that eating a tomato with salt will form a toxin that will burst an aneurism (not true, I repeat, not true). The puzzling part of this is why do people not only believe these stories but pass them on to everyone in their address books? I suppose they want to protect their family and friends but wouldn’t it be prudent to look it up first? Doesn’t salt on a tomato sound odd? For all the years people have been eating tomatoes wouldn’t that information hit the international news broadcasts? There are many websites that debunk hoaxes and weird stories. Why aren’t more of us taking advantage of these sites?
I’ve actually been tricked a time or two. I’m guilty. Some are so well written—and so frightening—that I have clicked on “forward.” But truly I’ve only done this less than a handful of times and yet I am the recipient of them almost every day. There are so many of them it’s a wonder any of the senders ever leave their homes, ever eat anything, ever touch anything, ever bend, sit, stand, sleep, bathe, walk outside, or shop.
If my morning news headlines state a poison bottle of aspirin was found in a store in my city I presume my neighbors and friends have read or heard about it. But throughout the course of the day I could possibly mention it when talking to anyone I know or emailing or social networking. If, however, I receive an email that someone found an ancient herb in a bottle of aspirin that causes instant blindness (not true, I repeat, not true), I do NOT pass that one on unless I look it up. Some are so ludicrous I don’t bother looking them up because I can tell they are phony. Some are so bad after two sentences I hit “delete.”
Some of these emails are not only scary but fraudulent as well. I received two this past year: one from Bank of America and one from Wells Fargo. The Bank of America email was about my account and it warned me I was the victim of identity theft and that I needed to immediately, by return email, provide my Social Security number, credit card numbers, phone numbers, address, and many other pieces of information so that their “fraud unit” could find the culprits. Most of the email looked fairly real except the creator couldn’t spell and the grammar was, well, foreign. I contacted my bank and was given a website to report the email but was never contacted for follow-up. I think it happens all the time. The second email was similar but slicker. Again, it looked like an official Wells Fargo email but it was grammatically correct and there were no spelling errors. The one giant error that made me laugh however was the fact that I was not a Wells Fargo customer. I called Wells Fargo and was given a similar website to report the email but I asked the customer service rep a few questions and he said it was quite common. By the way, I did not use the phone numbers provided in the emails and instead looked the banks up on my own.
Calling the phone number provided in the email by the person perpetrating the crime would not lend itself to resolution. I can only imagine who would be answering those phone lines!
But those emails, though harmful and potentially disastrous, do not frighten folks quite like the scary emails about deadly interactions with salted tomatoes. Emails that threaten life or limb or our children or homes or pets must be researched. I’ve received so many emails about what we must not feed our dogs and cats that had I followed the advice my pets would starve to death. So each time I hear about another food item my pets shouldn’t eat or they will DIE I head to a hoax site and check it out. Often the information is slightly true or partly true in that some dogs have had allergic reactions to certain foods. When you check percentages it’s small. My sister is allergic to shellfish but her entire family still eats it. I have a friend who has the infamous peanut allergy but I can eat peanut butter out of the jar. It’s important to know about genuine allergens that affect many people but if only a few people are allergic to celery do we all stop eating it? I know it’s better to be safe than sorry but a little due diligence, perhaps a call to our doctors and vets (or other experts depending on the nasty email) might be better than pressing forward and never eating a tomato sandwich again. Or—it just might be a great way to take off those last 10 pounds.
I considered creating a scary email and sending it to everyone in my address book then sit back and see if it went viral. I finally decided not to do it because I was afraid too many people would stop eating grapes and crush the grape industry [pun intended]. My email was about eating grapes after 7 p.m., which included wine, and male performance—heh heh heh.