Everyone has received email messages that warn about the “latest deadly computer virus” or that promise “prize money” for forwarding the message to friends. Such messages are hoaxes that seek to dupe unsuspecting computer users. Fortunately, such hoaxes are easy to identify.
Email hoaxes/scares often have some of the following characteristics:
They describe the payload of a nasty virus. The descriptions are often quite extreme, outlining horrible scenarios of data loss.They use technical-sounding language to give the impression that the sender really knows what he is talking about. The name of a major company, like Microsoft or Symantec, might be thrown in to add weight to the “seriousness” of the warning.They use common, everyday language to make it seem as if someone “just like you” got hit by a nasty virus.They tell you to delete a specific file from your computer.They tell you to forward the message to everyone you know so they can protect themselves or so you can earn money.
If you ever receive a message like this, don’t forward or reply to it! You will simply extend the life of the hoax. Also, do not delete any files from your computers. If in doubt about the veracity of a particular message, do a Web search about it or contact Help Desk. Additionally, if a strange email message comes with an attachment that purports to help you clean a virus, never open it. It is likely that the attachment is a virus. Simply delete the message and attachment.
To read more about hoaxes, visit the Sophos hoax list.