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Eight email hoaxes that really worked

Hoaxes or not... millions fell for them

Email hoaxes are rife on the web, but with 30 percent of internet users claiming to have purchased something from a spam email, maybe the scams aren't as obvious as we first thought. Here's our round-up of the eight wackiest email scams that people really did fall for.

Most email hoaxes are pretty far-fetched. From a wealthy oil executive in a far-off land that wants to give you millions of dollars to a host of pretty girls waiting to meet you, most are obviously not for real.

Yet, millions of people every day continue to fall for them. And it doesn't matter how many times reports detailing email hoaxes gone bad or tales of spammers taking people for all they're worth are released, people just keep on clicking.

Why? It's the law of percentages. The response rate for snail-mail spam is between 0.5 and 1 percent. That might not sound like a lot, but if you apply it to email, it means a spammer can send a million messages, without the cost of paper and postage, and 5,000 to 10,000 people will answer. In fact, a study out this month indicates that nearly 30 percent of internet users confessed to purchasing something from spam email.

Here's our round-up of the top email hoaxes that have come through inboxes and fooled millions.

Raise bonsai kittens in bottles

It's amazing how many people were willing to believe this email about a breeder in New York who raised kittens in bottles. Perhaps it's the horrible detail that outraged the recipients so much: the small animals are given a muscle relaxant to pacify them and to allow the breeder to get them in the bottle.

They're fed through straws. Their skeletons take on the shape of the bottle. "Latest trends In New York, China, Indonesia and New Zealand."

A bizarre case of animal cruelty? A sick joke? Actually, it started as a fake website, Bonsai Kitten, the product of MIT students. The idea was so outrageous, it spread like wildfire via email. Plenty of people fell for it, many begging animal-welfare organisations to help the small furry creatures.

Even the FBI investigated it. Perhaps it could happen, after all, you can miniaturise a tree by pruning it and shaping it. But cats? Last time we checked, it's more or less impossible (not to mention probably illegal) to stop an animal from growing simply by keeping it in a small container.

NEXT PAGE: sign a petition to ban dihydrogen monoxide

  1. They may seem crazy but millions fell for them
  2. Sign a petition to ban dihydrogen monoxide
  3. Money from Microsoft
  4. Start a nuclear war
  5. Even more scams and tips to spot a hoax email

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