Even the most cynical among us have some degree of trust. You get on a plane and expect the crew can fly it. Elevators go up or down when you push the buttons.
So when we get an e-mail from a friend or see it on a Web site, many of us assume it must be true: sick and missing children, politics, religious censorship, remedies, funny stories or a safety precaution. Sometimes we even receive money or gifts for passing it along. Instead of assuming it's true, check out its veracity before hitting that "forward" button.
Leaders of a Vacation Bible School planned to make cards for a dying child trying to set the record for the most get-well cards. The e-mail was false, I explained – the child was now a cured adult. Nevertheless, they decided the children would enjoy the activity. It’s an outdated request resulting in more than 200 million pieces of mail. Have genuinely sick children been missed because of it?
Bogus information also slows productivity. Missouri Senator Carl Vogel’s office receives more e-mail than letters and calls combined, with an increasing amount generated by “forwards,” he noted in a recent opinion column in the September 28, 2009, Jefferson City News Tribune.
Vogel noted hundreds of e-mails had been received in response to the false rumor of a Missouri Senate bill requiring serial numbers on ammunition, “some containing language which would make a sailor blush.” The bill actually never made it to committee when it was originally introduced. Ironically, that year his office never received any correspondence about it either way.
So is it really true? See if you can identify which of these statements are true. (If you need a hint, the numbers are linked to specific articles)
1. You need to register your cell phone on a “Do Not Call” list before numbers are released to telemarketers.
2. A new Senate bill SB-2099 will require handgun owners to list the weapons on federal income tax returns.
3. Calling #77 on your cell phone will connect you with highway patrol in every state.
4. Members of Congress receive pensions but do not contribute to Social Security.
5. Children eating or drinking hand sanitizer can get alcohol poisoning.
6. Poinsettia plants are poisonous to eat.
7. Coughing during a heart attack increases your likelihood of survival.
8. Children are being kidnapped from stores by having their appearance changed with wigs and different clothes.
9. A thief uses credit card information from delivering flowers and wine to empty bank accounts.
10. Mormons own the Coca-Cola company.
11. The day after Thanksgiving is the biggest shopping day of the year.
12. “The Twelve Days of Christmas” lyrics contain memory aids about the Christian faith.
13. Snopes.com is unreliable because of the liberal bent of its owner.
14. Aluminum can pull tabs can be redeemed for dialysis machine time.
15. Mormons own the Pepsi Cola company.
16. Hotel room keycards may be encoded with personal information thieves can use.
Wondering if you should pass along the e-mail you receive? Consider the 4 B’s:
* Be persnickety. Usually it takes less than a minute to find out if something is true, a good investment in your credibility. Search on a key phrase or check the directory at snopes.com or urbanlegends.about.com, as Sen. Vogel’s staffers do.
* Be private. Remove other e-mails from a message you forward. List your recipients in the BCC: field. (If it is not showing, search on BCC in your mail program’s help index to learn how.) This reduces e-mails that can be harvested by spammers.
* Be picky. Almost no e-mails are appropriate to send to everyone in your address book.
* Be persistent. I suspect pranksters start many forwards to make senders look ignorant and unreliable. Respond and include a site with the correct information to minimize the falsehood.
Security provider Symantec estimates that more than 90 percent of all e-mail is spam. Do your part in speaking the truth in love (Eph. 4:15) so that people anticipate, rather than dread, getting e-mail from you.
(Numbers 5 and 9 are true; the rest are false. Source: snopes.com, except 13 which is urbanlegends.about.com).
Ken Satterfield is advertising and marketing coordinator for Word&Way.