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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.

Bill Gates wants to give you money

Now Bill Gates is being very generous with his fortune now that he has retired from day-to-day work with Microsoft, you can even get your hands on some it by applying to the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. But long before the foundation was created, back in the early days of the internet, emails discussing Gates' or Microsoft's willingness to fork over free cash was widely circulated. In fact they're still being forwarded today.

Snopes.com has a list of the urban legends circulating most widely and, despite the fact that Gates and Microsoft have been the subject of phony email alerts and hoaxes since the 1990s, they are still in the top 25 this month.

One version says that Microsoft wants to make sure Internet Explorer remains the dominant browser (which we're sure is true). All you need to do to help out and get money from Microsoft is to forward an email to your friends. Microsoft will track the email for two weeks, and you get paid for every person who receives it through you.

Among the attractive details is a list of differing amounts that will come to you depending on how many referrals you make, one version of the scam says the sender received a check for $24,800 (£12,400) from Microsoft!

Hold on a second. First, if tracking an email like that were even possible, privacy campaigners would be all over it. Oh, and did we mention that the technology to do such a thing probably doesn't exist? But if Microsoft ever really wanted to pay us just for forwarding an email, we're game.

NEXT PAGE: Start a nuclear war

  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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