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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.

Launch a nuclear strike from your PC

In 2002, Symantec supposedly issued an advisory about certain email messages flying around the country about an "important virus to look out for".

The antivirus-software maker, which does issue warnings on real viruses, allegedly instructed internet users not to open any email with the subject line 'Launch nuclear strike now'. If you did open that email, you would inadvertently end up sending nuclear warheads winging their way toward the former Soviet Union. That's right, you could start your very own nuclear war while in your slippers and bathrobe.

Apparently opening the email would download a virus that would tell your PC to access NORAD computers in Colorado and instruct them to launch a full-scale attack on Russia and former USSR. Needless to say, the virus isn't real, Symantec didn't issue such a caution, and it should be painfully obvious that this one is a hoax. If that isn't clear to you, step away from your PC and don't ever touch it again.

Hello, I'm a lawyer in Nigeria - can you help me?

Let us guess: at one time or another, you've received an email from an earnest resident of Nigeria that starts with a hello and an introduction to the sender. The email then suggests that your help is needed to claim an abandoned sum of money in a foreign account, or something similar.

The message typically promises that you will receive a large amount of money if you simply send a smaller amount of money now.

You didn't fall for it, did you? These convincing missives, which may or may not be from Nigeria, are known as 419 scams (named after a section of the Nigerian criminal code that deals with fraud).

Wikipedia says most of them are advance-fee frauds or confidence tricks. Not only will you not get rich, but you'll also have a very hard time getting back any money you wire the sender up front. We're sorry to report that these types of scams, which are based on versions dating back to the early 1900s, are still popular - variants purporting to be from Russia, Spain, Nigeria and many other countries still pour into email accounts around the world.

If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.

NEXT PAGE: Even more scams and tips to spot a hoax email

  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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