If you receive an e-mail that looks like a hoax, the best thing to do is to stop reading and delete the message. Don’t waste your time reading the message and don’t waste other people’s time by forwarding it.
If you are skeptical and think it might be legit, take a few minutes and try to verify its authenticity. If the so-called source of the message has a web site, go visit it and see if the information is posted there. Since it was important enough to send around the Internet, it should be prominently featured, shouldn’t it?
If the source doesn’t have a web site, try to identify it and see if it even exists. Chances are you’ll find out very quickly that this congressman/hospital/company/whatever doesn’t even exist.
If the message is a virus warning, visit the web site of one of the reputable virus scanner software manufacturer (links provided below). If the virus actually exists, they will have information about it on their web site. Every virus scanner site maintains a searchable database for easy reference of existing virii.
If none of the above methods reveals anything about the message you received, visit one of the hoax info web sites (links provided below). They also maintain a searchable database where you can see if the message is bogus.
If that doesn’t work either and you still cannot verify its authenticity, delete the message and forget about it. You’ve already spent enough time on it.
Hoaxbusters – A public service of the CIAC (Computer Incident Advisory Capability) team and the U.S. Department of Energy
Don’t spread that hoax!
Symantec Antivirus Research Center (SARC) – Hoaxes – Searchable online database of non-existent virii/virus hoaxes
Urban Legends – Archive of urban legends
About.com – Lots of info about hoaxes and urban legends
Snopes – Urban Legends Reference Pages
Searchable Online Databases of Real Virii