Thursday, 6 May 2010

The Voice - Consumer's Voice

This week it’s all about hoaxes, not scams.

In the last month we’ve been sent several emails people received that seemed either to something too good to be true or so bizarre that they couldn’t quite believe it. Here’s a couple of examples.

Poisonous lipstick?

We were sent an email about lipstick. It said:
“Something to consider. Next time you go shopping for lipstick......
This comes from someone who works in the breast cancer unit at Mt. Sinai Hospital, in Toronto. If there is a female you care anything about, share this with her. I did!!!!!
I am also sharing this with the males on my e-mail list, because they need to tell the females THEY care about as well!
Recently a lipstick brand called 'Red Earth' decreased their prices from $67 to $9.90. It contained lead. Lead is a chemical which causes cancer.”
It then listed a variety of lipstick brands that it claimed contained lead including names such as Dior, Lancome, YSL, Chanel and Clinique. It pointed out that lead, as most of us know, can cause cancer.

It later claimed that you could test any lipstick for lead content yourself using a simple test. This is how:
“1. Put some lipstick on your hand.
2. Use a Gold ring to scratch on the lipstick.
3. If the lipstick colour changes to black, then you know the lipstick contains lead.”
I’m the first to confess that it’s been a very long time since I was a schoolboy studying Chemistry and my knowledge is rusty but this is utter nonsense. The reason we use gold for jewellery is exactly because it doesn’t react, that’s why gold jewellery never needs to be polished.

All it took was a quick Google search to establish that EVERY part of this story was complete rubbish. There have been tiny traces of lead found in lipsticks in the past but the levels these days are either completely non-existent or so small they can barely be detected. It’s not something any of us should be worrying about. It’s a hoax, plain and simple.

Bill Gates giving away his money?

Some while ago we were forwarded an email entitled “Please do it - Microsoft Paying u - Not Fake”. This was an email that had been forwarded from one person to another at least 20 times. Curiously the actual message had been deleted at some stage but some of the people in the chain had added comments such as:
“Guys It's working. I have got $10000.”
“Hai this is not joke i got 4672$ credited in my ICICI account last week”
“I got $9386. Was shocked!!! Hey!!! Am not joking................... This really works!!!”
Now clearly this is a remarkable thing. Is someone giving away large sums of money just for forwarding emails? Is that credible?

A quick Google search later and I was able to identify the email. Do it yourself if you have internet access. Go to Google and search for the email title “Please do it - Microsoft Paying u - Not Fake” but make sure you keep the quotation marks so it searches for the full phrase, not just the individual words. The first link explains that this is a hoax.

The original email explains that:
“Bill Gates is sharing his fortune. If you ignore this you will repent later… When you forward this e-mail to friends, Microsoft can and will track it for a two week time period. For every person that you forward this e-mail to, Microsoft will pay you $245.00, for every person that you sent it to that forwards it on, Microsoft will pay you $243.00 and for every third person that receives it, you will be paid $241.00. Within two weeks, Microsoft will contact you for your address and then send you a cheque.”
I’m sure once you think about this you realise it’s got to be a hoax. We all know Bill Gates and how much money he made from Microsoft and we also know that he’s giving lots of his personal fortune away and much of it in Botswana but he doesn’t sit at home emailing total strangers offering them cash for sending dumb emails!

Interestingly the email addresses from which this particular version of the email appeared to start were in the Indian sub-continent but most of the later ones were all with Botswana so we can’t blame foreigners this time. Clearly a lot of us thought this might be worth a try. We weren’t being skeptical, were we?

The lesson?

Don’t believe everything you read in emails. That’s the first rule of skepticism. Just because it’s been said, written, broadcast or emailed, that doesn’t mean it’s true. That’s particularly the case with anything on the internet. Any crook, charlatan or fraud with a computer or just the money to operate from an internet café can start emailing the entire world with whatever nonsense and lies he wants to distribute.

An appeal

Which company in Botswana gives you really dreadful service on the telephone? Let us who you think sucks on the phone and we’ll phone them for you, record their abysmal service and then send a recording to their CEO or MD. Let’s demonstrate how bad things are to those who have the power to do something about it!

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