Software

Top 10 sites to debunk Internet hoaxes

When your users turn into Chicken Little over the latest hoax, scam, rumor, or urban legend, point them to the sites on this list to ease their minds (and preempt a rash of chain mail).

Has this ever happened to you? You're busy working on an intense project when someone in the company excitedly forwards you one of those stupid urban legend chain mail spams asking if it is true. Or worse, they simply forward it to everyone in the company without checking with you first.

It doesn't matter that you have a written IT policy on the company intranet explaining what a useless activity this is. Nor does it matter that you have tried to explain to this individual several times that junk like this is really annoying to everybody who receives it. They just don't seem to get it.

It's bad enough that we get spam from outside the company. Do we have to endure it from our own employees also? As the IT manager, I have to take a few minutes to debunk the latest urban legend that got the naive employee so excited. What's worse, I have to be extra nice because it is an executive who forwarded the e-mail.

Of course, the basic skill in responding to these interruptions is Google and keywords. I am still amazed after all these years how many people don't know how to Google properly. Maybe it's just the people in the company I work for are that are sadly Google-challenged.

I've often wished for a list of sites to which I could refer the offending co-workers, so I decided to compile one. Actually, you really need only the top three sites on the list, but I've found the others to be useful on occasion. Sometimes these sites can be entertaining reading, but who has time for that?

Note: This information has been updated from the original article, published in 2008. It's also available as a PDF download.

1: Snopes

Who hasn't heard of Snopes? This is the granddaddy of all fact-checking sites. Some of the worst chain spams even quote Snopes with an embedded link to give their email an added level of authenticity. Of course, Snopes has been known to be wrong and has changed its listings on several occasions. It has also become commercialized over the years, but it's still a very complete site.

2: About Urban Legends

This About.com subsite has been hosted for 10 years by David Emery, and he has done a great job. He is passionate about finding and debunking all those rumors, myths, pranks, and odd stories. I have found lately that I am referring more people to his site than Snopes because I like the format better. The site also shows up in more Google searches than the others, indicating that the content is well linked and used.

3: Break The Chain

In 1999, John Ratliff was annoyed that he kept receiving the same chain spams forwarded to him over and over. I have been just as annoyed for just as long, but he did something about it. Like most of these sites, John has plenty of healthy advertisements but no pop-ups. His site is getting more professional looking all the time. He is also frequently cited by the media when looking for an authoritative source on these stupid chain mails.

4: TruthOrFiction.com

This excellent site, founded by Rich Buhler in 1999, offers information on "eRumors," hoaxes, requests for help, and other items circulated via email. You can search for a story, browse through categories such as Food-Drink, Warnings, and eRumors in the News, view the top 20 stories of the hour, and subscribe to its email alerts (for a very modest price).

5: Sophos

This antivirus company keeps a small list of hoaxes and urban legends, but it is not nearly as complete as the sites at the top of this list. Their focus is more on virus hoaxes -- you know, the ones that scream that you will wipe your hard drive and melt the motherboard if you open the suspect email.

6: Hoax-Slayer

Brett Christensen's Hoax-Slayer morphed from a Yahoo group to a Web site in 2003. You can search the site, browse by category, subscribe to a newsletter for the latest info, or get a quick roundup of the latest hoaxes and scams by visiting the Hoax-Slayer Nutshell page. The site is thorough and up to date. One particularly interesting feature is its True Emails page, which lists circulating emails that actually are legit (albeit misleading in some cases) despite their hoax-y appearance.

7: VMyths

Well referenced by specialists in the computer security field, VMyths takes Internet hoaxes and chain letters to a new level. If you want to read what the real experts have to say about Internet hoaxes, virus scares, myths, and legends, get it from Rob Rosenberger at VMyths. Unfortunately, its lists are not comprehensive.

8. Symantec

I have a love-hate affair with Symantec. I use its products, but I've been burned by them several times lately. That's a story for another post. Its hoax list is pretty good but seems a little dated. Maybe that's because most hoaxes today are really recycled from earlier hoaxes.

9:Hoax Busters

Not to be confused with the U.S. Department of Energy's now-defunct hoaxbusters.ciac.org, Hoax Busters offers The BIG LIST of Internet Hoaxes -- an alphabetized list of urban legends, scams, chain letters, and hoaxes. This is handy if you just want to quickly look up an item to see if it's on the list (although you have to figure out the most likely keyword for an item to find its listing). Items that require a little explanation are presented as clickable links, which open a window with additional info.

10: Virus Busters

This is a short list from the University of Michigan of hoaxes and legends that keep coming back. Like the UofM, I have not seen many new hoaxes lately -- they are almost all repackaged oldies. The list is not intended to be comprehensive but is a good reference point for what you will see on a regular basis.

Your turn

I know I've missed some of your favorite sites and would like to hear about them. Add yours to the comments so we can all increase our knowledge of what's out there.


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29 comments
shayzzwayzz
shayzzwayzz

Where can I find the real facts on the Sandy Hook incident? Is it a hoax, or is it not?

Windjammer2
Windjammer2

Before retiring from the Federal Gov't. (LAN/WAN support) I maintained similar links regarding hoaxes. Yours is a great site and I have now presented it on my site, Http://fogcutters.net I have also posted other site links where one can actually get facts on various subjects being hoaxed. Re: RufusVS's comment about liberal bias - Few sites, like Snopes, are not run by liberals but there are a lot of rumors designed to detract from these sites.

ls1313
ls1313

FactCheck.Org is also a good site for checking on the veracity of political email chains, as well as politician's ads and claims of all sorts. They have no bias - they expose democrats, republicans, and independents when they are lying! :)

pgit
pgit

Ever check the history of the folks who founded/run "snopes?" You would be embarrassed to say you ever lent credence to that site if you knew one fact about 'em. Morons trust snopes! Ay-yup-yup!! =D

CaptBilly1Eye
CaptBilly1Eye

... I use FactCheck.org I started using that service after receiving an email that was meant to cast dispersions on Snopes for being liberal biased. I suspected that the email was based on myth and FactCheck affirmed that belief: http://www.factcheck.org/2009/04/snopescom/

NickNielsen
NickNielsen

You really don't need anything else. Remember, Tim, the people who forward these chains and hoaxes are the same people targeted by supermarket tabloids and Fox News. ]:)

sykeel
sykeel

Scambusters.org frequently publishes stories about hoaxes and has a Hoax and Urban Legends information section.

Silverlokk
Silverlokk

Snopes is rightfully #1 on the list. It's got this smart search function that checks for variations in spelling, in case the originator of the hoax was clever enough to change names ever so slightly. Incidentally, I don't believe that hoaxes are a minor nuisance. They're the equivalent of a manually propagated virus. I think a company's AUP should mention that.

HAL 9000
HAL 9000 moderator

The court records when the case is heard is the ideal place to start. As for it being a Hoax I'm not really sure what you are smoking but can I have some? To not realize what has been plastered all over every news report for ages is real you must be smoking some really good Manure.

wlportwashington
wlportwashington

I have found that Snopes has been wrong about 95% of the time when it came to the latest threat. Not very good.

JamesRL
JamesRL

Back in 1992 I started reading alt.folklore.urban or AFU. I posted before I really understood the group. The first person to bait me and then beat up on me was snopes. The first person to reach out to me and try explain what was going on was Barbara. I know David as someone who has a pretty fair ego, but at the same time he is smart and reasonably fair. He does care about the facts and would argue them incessantly (with a fair dollop of sarcasm, kinda like some around here). I know Barbara as someone who is smart and fair and funny. Snopes.com was created as a commercial site, and there was a big controversy at AFU at the time as Snopes and Barbara were big contributors to TAAKAC (The archive also known as cathouse) which was a non profit place where AFU members put there definitive stuff and archives from AFU discussions. I was one of the contributors. The criteria on AFU and TAAKAC were very high, the list was full of academics and others who all had a very sceptical view of urban legends. There are people on AFU who have never forgiven Snopes for going commercial, and they tend to be critical of any mistakes they find on the snopes.com site. There have been a few over the years, but not many. And when confronted with new evidence, they have revised their listings. Even Snopes would tell you not to take any one source as gospel, thats the whole point of a debunking site. But do I trust Snopes more than I trust you? Sure do. And I'm pretty sure I'm not a moron. Admission: Barbara used one of my old quotes from AFU on her sig line for years, and that line has been published in a book. That quote; "And of course we all know that all Canadians are virtuous and never exaggerate for effect"

NickNielsen
NickNielsen

because they might be 'liberals'? Explains a lot.

pgit
pgit

Annenberg saying snopes is cool is zero different from Hitler saying Mussolini was cool, or LBJ saying HH was cool...

RufusVS
RufusVS

It only appears that debunking sites have a liberal bias because the items being debunked are usually created by conservatives!

CaptBilly1Eye
CaptBilly1Eye

Since you've seen inaccuracies so often, you must have many. How about sharing a few.

pgit
pgit

reasoned, reasonable. I do get needlessly antagonistic at times.

pgit
pgit

I don't see any utility in such a political spectrum as 'liberal - conservative' and the like. Dead ends if your goal is to actually accomplish anything. The people who founded snopes are questionable, which of course is my opinion. Not saying they never get it right, not by a long shot. People's motivations are important. I question snopes, and I have concluded any 'not for profit' regardless of any other factor has made a compromise I strongly disagree with. The history of such "non-profit" foundations is very telling, the creation of the "law" that they operate under, that is. In short it's part of the bogus federal reserve scheme. The non-profits are there in part to keep the value of the dollar from inflating Wiemar Republic/Zimbabwe style, and are a channel for larceny, fake money out of thin air but real property (labor is property mind you) accrues to those with the monopoly on the money supply.

NickNielsen
NickNielsen

Only eight posts and Godwin's Law has been fulfilled already?

R_Brand
R_Brand

So what are you saying - that conservatives tend to spread lies.

NickNielsen
NickNielsen

[i]Just because there is 'one author' does not make the author's assertions untrue. [/i] Nor do I say you didn't walk the walk, but it's your job to convince me that you're not just another conspiracy theorist. The only links you provide are to commentary or opinion pieces or to conspiracist websites. The assertions you make regarding the Lincoln and Kennedy assassinations not only fly in the face of the evidence, they defy common sense.

pgit
pgit

with the executive order. http://www.john-f-kennedy.net/executiveorder11110.htm google pulls up a ton of ither sources. A minor correction, the order was not rescinded, the production and release to circulation was halted. Just because there is 'one author' does not make the author's assertions untrue. A few seconds of searching reveals massive corroboration from a lot of sources. Eustace Mullins happens to have dug the proof out of federal archives and the library of congress. You post something about us notes being in use for a long time... um, I posted that Lincoln issued same and was whacked for it. I spent ten years of some serious hard studies proving various things to myself. I have dispelled some things, but the criminality behind the global banking scam is undoubted. Read up on Andy Jackson's battles with the banksters. They tried but failed to assassinate him, too. Lucky for him the gun powder still had to be loaded separately in his day. 20 years later and the attempt would have been successful. BTW I studied 15 hours a day, 7 days a week for 3-4 months at a shot. Seriously. I had a few things going on at the time I had to keep ahead of. You don't know me, and it is useless to say I generally have concluded things on vastly more information than you or anybody you know has gone over. But that is true. 10+ years studying this stuff, with almost 2 years of that 10-15 hours a day, all day, every day interspersed over the decade. I've (single handedly) taken an issue through the US 'supreme court.' Won't say what issue but I will say they have behaved most honorably since. Not 'same old same old,' not out of me. I have walked the walk. I would never open my mouth if I hadn't. I walked first, talked later. Now I'll shut up.

NickNielsen
NickNielsen

was in use from 1862 through 1971. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_States_Note [i]Compare what it says at top to any note in your pocket. JFK signed an executive order to issue these saying "the American taxpayer deserves a break." LBJ's first official act as president was rescinding that order, it had already been prepared for him to sign on Nov. 22 1963.[/i] References? Links? Something other than the single author you cite? Given both the implication in your wording that US Notes were JFK's idea and the fact that they had been around for almost 100 years when JFK was elected, I am inclined dismiss your assertions as more of the same old same old.

pgit
pgit

humanity has lost the ability to read? (below I offer solid proof of a singular matter that impacts you more than anything else in this world, bar none. Your money supply ain't what you think it is) yes I question the motivations of a lot of people. Rat poison is 97% nutritious food. Important matters may be turned on their head if people blindly trust any "authority" they cannot thoroughly vet. Snopes seems to get it right 97% of the time. Where did I say, imply or lead anyone to believe I think snopes itself has any beyond zero impact on the finances of this world? My truck is with "foundations" which are not the lovey-squishy-touchy-feely enterprises people blindly assume them to be. Their origins are as dark as that of the federal reserve itself. http://www.apfn.org/apfn/reserve.htm Don't read GE Griffin, he plagiarized Mullins. Mullins didn't copyright his work at Pound's suggestion, as he though the information too critical to have any limitation on it's dissemination. Here's a killer quote: http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/quotes/h/henryford136294.html The public ordeal of the "Lindberg kidnapping" was an early test of 'assassination' (screwing up someone's life) in the media, payback for Lindberg Sr.'s opposition to the federal reserve. All the assassinated (as in dead) presidents of the united states opposed the forces behind this 'theft by banking' scheme, which became entrenched in 1913, you'll see by very shady means if you read Mullins. (who was a librarian of congress) ever see one of these? http://usrarecurrency.com/WebPgFl/A51298086A/1963$5UnitedStatesNoteSnA51298086A.jpg Compare what it says at top to any note in your pocket. JFK signed an executive order to issue these saying "the American taxpayer deserves a break." LBJ's first official act as president was rescinding that order, it had already been prepared for him to sign on Nov. 22 1963. Lincoln pissed off the London bankers so he had to go: quote: This book not only exposes the problem but outlines a sound solution for the ever-increasing debt and other monetary woes of the nation and the world. It shows that ending the debt-money fractional reserve banking system and returning to an honest debt-free monetary system could provide Americans with a future that is prosperous beyond our imagining. An 1865 London Times editorial directed against Lincoln's debt-free Greenbacks said it all: If that mischievous financial policy which had its origin in the North American Republic during the late war in that country, should become indurated down to a fixture, then that Government will furnish its own money without cost. It will pay off its debts and be without debt. It will become prosperous beyond precedent in the history of the civilized governments of the world. The brains and wealth of all countries will go to North America. That government must be destroyed or it will destroy every monarchy on the globe. from: http://www.webofdebt.com/excerpts/foreword.php I personally know one of the directors of one of the largest, most famous banks the world has known. (president of a gas co for a time too) What I say is true. I was invited to get filthy rich off your backs but declined for moral reasons. His attitude was 'suit yourself' and we remain friends. BTW check that word "indurated." Classy editorials back then...

JamesRL
JamesRL

What do you meante to by "The people who founded Snopes are questionable". As for profit, I hate to tell you, but they are running the site for profit. They work their money. As for the Weimar Republic and Zimbabwe, I'm not sure just how you think one website could impact the money supply in any meaningful way. I'm pretty sure they make a comfortable but not luxurious lifestyle type of income, and if you think that has a major impact on the US economy or money supply, then I'd say you need a calculator or a slide rule.

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