Drawing on remembered fear of the anthrax scare, an e-mail hoax is alleging that seven women have died after inhaling few perfume samples they received in the mail.
I wrote the original debunking on 12/16, but updated it on 10/24 with new information from the CDC (which further debunks the hoax).
Here's the original e-mail:
Date Captured: 4/6/2002
Seven women have died after inhaling a free perfume sample that was mailed to them. The product was poisonous. If you receive free samples in the mail such as lotions, perfumes, diapers etc. throw them away .
The government is afraid that this might be another terrorist act. They will not announce it on the news because they do not want to create panic or give the terrorists new ideas. Send this to all your friends and family members."
When confronted about forwarding e-mails to people, one of the things I hear most often is "well, you never know". Well folks, in this case, we damn well do know. Even without having searched on line, I knew this e-mail was a hoax. In the post-9/11 world in which we all live, it is impossible for seven women to have been killed by perfume samples without being bombarded by the news every hour of every day, from every imaginable news source.
In 1999/2000, an e-mail hoax surfaced claiming that a man in Hawaii died after being exposed to rat urine in the back room of a supermarket. Although it offered good advice -- always wipe off your soda can before drinking from it -- the content's were false. The hoax has gained a few paragraphs since it first appeared, but it's no more true than the day it surfaced.
SARS has taken a heavy toll, both in terms of human life and economic prosperity. A new e-mail hoax plays off of that malady, combining it with malease over the Iraq War in a play to get people to forward a useless e-mail around the net.
The hoax alleges that British Airways, aided (as in all such hoaxes) by Microsoft are tracking e-mails. Forward enough messages, and they'll give you a free plane ticket.
Naturally, it's bogus.
An e-mail allegding that an Israeli satellite took pictures of the orbiter Columbia as it exploded during re-entry is a hoax. In reality, the pictures depict a scene from the opening of the movie Armageddon, in which the shuttle is destroyed by a meteor.
What's the one thing that can get motorists' minds off the sting of high gas prices? That's right -- the Attack of the Killer HIV Needle!
An email that I first saw in the Summer of 2000 alleges that some whacko with HIV positive blood is sticking him/herself with needles, and then "affixing" these needles to the underside of gas pump handles. Unsuspecting motorists grab the handle, and suddenly the $2.50 for super isn't the only thing they're wincing about.
Those lunatic gang initiates are at it again. They started out putting strychnine and LSD on phone booth buttons, but now they've moved on to slashing the ankles of unsuspecting women. They lay in wait underneath women's cars at gas stations, and as they get out, they attack!
Fortunately, just like the LSD scare, this is a hoax.
Bill Gates is a very, very rich man. Perhaps wealthier than many of us could imagine, but even with all of his money, not even Bill Gates could afford to give everyone on the net a share of his fortune. Yet that's exactly what a hoax that's been circulating the net for decades (well, in net-time) would have people believe.
And amazingly, they believe it.
Not to long ago, I updated a hoax about killer South American spiders that were allegeldy infesting airplanes as well as a certain restaurant in Chicago. That very same hoax has now mutated, and shows all the signs of becoming a truly enduring urban legend.