The tradition of urban legends and ghost stories had existed for centuries. Humans have an innate desire to tell stories and also have fantastic imaginations, especially when it comes to trying to explain mysterious circumstances. So it’s no surprise that, when e-mail became accessible to the mass market, that these urban legends quickly turned into e-mail forwards and hoaxes, some of which were entertaining and mischievous, but a small number of which were actually malicious in intent. Being able to tell the difference between the two will prevent you from falling for any online scams.
Most of the e-mail forwards that you get will probably be entertaining and fun to read. Many of these stories are funny, usually regarding a ridiculous situation that someone got into or maybe a funny story about an animal or that. Often times, these stories will even have a picture that goes along with them that is supposed to prove that the story is real. These pictures are just as easy to fake at the stories are.
Another smaller set of these types of stories are scary stories, on evolution of the campfire ghost stories that kids still like to tell. One of the more recent stories was that of Carmen Winstead, a girl who supposedly was accidentally killed by bullies when they pushed her down a well. This story is false, just like most of those camp stories. It is fun to tell stories about the supernatural, but that does not make it real.
The stories and e-mails you need to watch out for usually try to persuade you to take some kind of action. The classic e-mail hoax is that of the Nicaraguan prince, who supposedly has a fortune that he needs to get out of the country and he will deposit it in your bank account if you just send him the information. Clearly, if you do this, your bank account is going to be drained by somebody. Any e-mail that persuades you to take action probably needs to be investigated before you actually take that action. This is also true if that tells you to download or click on something, as this is a classic way of getting viruses installed onto people’s computers.
E-mail forwards can be fun to read, but if an e-mail is trying to convince you to do something, you need to do some research before you actually take that action. This is to protect you from malicious intent.