Use Snopes.com to Debunk or Verify Email Urban Legends

Emails Aren’t Always True

This post is for anyone who has ever received an email forward containing a cautionary tale with an unknown origin.

Existing Email Scams

These emails may include the following stories:

  • Household items contain agents that will kill you
  • Truck drivers will run your car off the road
  • Cell phones numbers are being given to telemarketers
  • Calling #77 on your cell phone will connect you to the police, no matter where you are
  • Vague missing person reports

Why Do These Scams Succeed?

I have been taken in by many of these emails, and don’t doubt that there are valid situations where some of these stories may have occurred.

I also often receive these emails from kind-hearted people who are so concerned about warning their friends that they don’t think to validate the story before passing on the message.

Don’t Be Duped, or Dupe Your Friends

Although you may want to warn others as quickly as possible, it’s worth doing a quick search online before you spread the story and worry the people in your life.

You are a trusted source for most of these people, and receiving this email from you makes others more inclined to trust the story.

Scammers are counting on it.

What Can You Do About It?

Please take 30 seconds to check the facts at snopes.com.

You can search for the subject line or keywords related to the email you’ve received. If it’s a popular forward, snopes will tell you:

  1. If it’s true
  2. Where the story came from
  3. Accurate information that may help you.

For example, the #77 email is a myth – not all states use #77, some use other codes, or no code at all. Snopes suggests that to be safe, you should always dial 911.

How Do I Know Snopes is Accurate?

In their FAQ, Snopes explains, that they are not “the ultimate authority on any topic” but that “the research materials [they’ve] used in the preparation of any particular page are listed in the bibliography displayed at the bottom of that page so that readers who wish to verify the validity of [their] information may check those sources for themselves.”

If, for your peace of mind, you feel that you should send the email warning just in case, please do. But, you should be aware that the story you’re sending may not be gospel truth, and you may want to indicate that information at the start of your forward.

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