How to Recognize a Legend

So you get a too-good-to-be-true story in your e-mail and pass it on to a friend, who shoots back that it's an urban legend, not true, didn't happen, and how could you be so stupid? Here's a checklist of suspicious points to consider before believing or passing on a story. Any single one of these doesn?t mean much, but if several are present, check it out.

  • The text wasn't actually written by the person who sent it to you.
  • The e-mail says to "forward this to everyone you know."
  • It states, "This is not a hoax" or "This is not an urban legend."
  • It makes frequent use of UPPERCASE LETTERS and multiple exclamation points!!!!!!!
  • The message seems geared more to persuade than to inform.
  • It purports to convey very important information that you?ve never heard before or seen elsewhere.
  • There are logical inconsistencies, violations of common sense and obviously false claims.
  • There are no references to outside sources or links to Web sites with corroborating information.
  • It's a chain letter.
  • There are subtle or not-so-subtle clues that the author is deliberately pulling your leg.

Finally, two important points: First, check to see if the message has been debunked by one of the many Web sites that cover Internet hoaxes (see below). Second, be especially wary of health-related rumors, and never, ever act on one without first verifying its accuracy with your doctor.

Copyright © 2002 IDG Communications, Inc.

Bing’s AI chatbot came to work for me. I had to fire it.
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