There is predictability in the world of hoaxes and hearsay. It’s almost comforting in a strange yet still utterly infuriating sort of way. A stability from an inherently volatile subject matter. Some hoaxes will just never go away, and their persistence serves up a peculiar brand of nostalgia.
Sort of like watching ‘The Goonies’ on a chilled Sunday afternoon.
Here are six hoaxes destined to plague our social media feeds for all eternity.
It’s time to pack your bags. We’re closing your account.
You can’t call yourself a seasoned Internet surfer unless you’ve encountered this “oldie but goodie” at least several dozen times. The claim that a particular online service is closing your account because…
A. We’re overpopulated/running too slowly because there are so many inactive accounts
B. We’ve detected you’re not using your account
However, according to these hoaxes, you can save your account, just by…
A. Posting the same arbitrary copy & paste warning to your friends
B. Forwarding the same warning to your friends
This rumour is as old as the Internet itself. It has plagued nearly every type of Internet service out there at one point. Hotmail, Yahoo, AIM, WhatsApp, Facebook, Twitter. You name it, this rumour has spread across it. And no, it’s never true.
We’re going to start charging you.
We like to think of this as a close cousin to the hoax above, mostly down to it being just as old and has spread across just as many services. It’s the claim that a particular service is going to imminently begin charging its users for continued use of their service.
However, you can apparently avoid such a charge if you…
A. Post the same arbitrary copy & paste warning to your friends
B. Forward the same warning to your friends
The most popular version of this would probably be the “Facebook Price Membership Grid”, or perhaps the “Hotmail ‘turn your icon blue’” version. We’re not sure.
The most devastating virus ever
Computer viruses are – these days – rather uncommon, but they remain the most notorious type of computer malware thanks to popular culture. These days you’re more likely to stumble across ransomware or spyware strains like keyloggers. Or perhaps a rootkit that will turn your computer into a slave working for a botnet.
But most people have heard of the term “virus” and know it’s a bad, bad thing. Especially a virus that will “burn your hard drive” and erase every piece of information from it (despite practically no known malware in the universe known to actually do that.)
This notorious hoax lends its roots to one of the earliest online hoaxes to hit the Internet in the 90s, which claimed the virus could “burn” the entire hard disk. Countless variants have spread since, many claiming the virus was classified as the “worst ever” by CNN, Microsoft or McAfee, and was confirmed by “The Geek Squad”.
While you should be careful opening email [attachments] from people you don’t know (in fact, you just shouldn’t) these alarming virus alerts were designed simply to spread as far as wide as possible, without the need or want to actually help anyone.
You’ll get money for forwarding an email or sharing a post.
In the days of email, the famous “Bill Gates is giving away his fortune” hoax spread from inbox to inbox. This later changed to “The Dell Computer giveaway” hoax which again change to the “HP laptop giveaway” hoax.
Just forward an email to X number of friends and for every friend they forward it to, you get money! Some of these hoaxes even backed up their frivolous claims with people holding up checks they received for doing just that (though how those people managed to get their photos on an email they already apparently sent went unexplained.)
With the drop in email usage to the hands of social media, this hoax evolved into various incarnations that were designed to spread via sites like Facebook, not email.
It didn’t drop good old Bill Gates though. One of the most popular social media versions claimed that the Microsoft founder would pay you $5000 if you shared an image of him holding up a sign.
And it’s never gone away since.
As Morgan Freeman can certainly attest, being killed off in the world of social media happens, and it happens regularly. Nothing gets people hitting the share button like bad news, and in a world where people want to be the first to break breaking news, verifying your sources seems to take second priority.
And with an onslaught of websites allowing people to “kill off” any celebrity they pleased by creating their very own fake articles, celebrity death hoaxes aren’t going anywhere anytime soon.
Gang initiation hoaxes
Destined to plague every Halloween between 10 years ago to infinity, gang initiation hoaxes (click here for examples) most likely attribute their success to their overly alarmist rhetoric.
Beware – a new gang initiation hoax has begun and they’re targeting women in this location and that location. And what follows is usually some ancient urban legend that was more than likely debunked before the Internet was even a thing.
Yes, crimes happen, and women are often the targets. But following good old common sense and basic safety tips will always be more effective than believing and sharing 70s ‘scarelore’.
Have you come across all of these as some point during your online tenure? Let us know.