Updated 23 of October, 2012
Here’s Brigada’s “OPC Protocol” on email chain letters, virus notifications, and mass mailings: (If you like, you could clip the following text and paste it as a reply to any suspicious warning or chain letter you receive. Hint: If there are more than 100 addresses in the “cc:” box, this reply *might* be in order. :-) )

Hi! Thanks for your info., but the “virus” (or other mass mail) you’re informing us about just might be a hoax. Brigada (https://brigada.org) suggests that all email users, prior to forwarding seemingly harmless emails, take a look at these 3 “OPC” factors. Specifically, does the email have a…

*** VERIFIABLE ORIGIN: Does it have an author and a working email address or web site? If not, don’t forward it. If so, and if the content sounds questionable, then write the source and verify it. Check the relevant or supplied web-page. If you don’t get a reply or if the site is bogus, toss it. By no means forward it to everyone in your email client’s address book!

*** VERIFIABLE PURPOSE: Will it make an actual difference if I forward it? If it’s a prayer request, make sure it meets the “closure test” below. The test here: Will the users be able to do anything about it?

*** VERIFIABLE CLOSURE: How will we know when it’s complete? Does it have a cut-off date? If you aren’t sure, check the web before forwarding.

So next time you compose a prayer request, or an urgent news update, or whatever, make sure it meets the “Brigada OPC Test” — Origin, Purpose, and Closure. If not, *please* do the Net a favor and think twice before forwarding it.

Here are some of the more common telltale signs of Internet hoaxes (based in part on an Internet Solutions article in the May 8th, 2001 issue of _PC Magazine_):

1) A request that the message be passed on to a large number of people.

2) Failure to cite authoritative sources, or vague appeals to authority (for example, “AOL says that this is a really nasty virus!” — once again, verify the origin!)

3) Bogus claims that every copy that is re-sent will somehow be tallied (for example, a statement that for each copy you pass on, some amount of money will be donated to a worthy cause).

4) Improbable statements about technology, such as a claim that the A.I.D.S. virus could infect your mouse. :-)

5) A petition claiming you can sign it by adding your name and passing the message on. (No government or politician has ever taken seriously a petition that was not signed in ink. And some governments wouldn’t care less about even *those*!)

6) Finally, just about any legitimate tip should contain a web site so that the user can read updates on the situation. If you receive a piece of mail with no accurate URL included, consider it suspect from the start.

If you’d like to check out a “tip” you’ve received, here are some great (and legitimate) websites on the web for doing so. If you don’t personally have economical access to the web, maybe a friend could search the sites and relay relevant info to you.


[end of suggested email text]

Now a conclusion based on a somewhat “lighter note.” Now this SHOULD be forwarded to everyone in your address book. (I’m kidding!)*

1. Big companies don’t do business via chain letters. Bill Gates is not giving you $1000, and Disney is not giving you a free vacation. There is no baby food company issuing class-action checks. Procter and Gamble is not part of a satanic cult or scheme, and its logo is not satanic. MTV will not give you backstage passes if you forward something to the most people. Honda won’t give you a new car either! You can relax; there is no need to pass it on “just in case it’s true.” Furthermore, just because someone said in a message, four generations back, that “we checked it out and it’s legit,” does not actually make it true.

2. There is no kidney theft ring in New Orleans. No one is waking up in a bathtub full of ice, even if a friend of a friend swears it happened to their cousin. If you are hell-bent on believing the kidney-theft ring stories, please see: http://urbanlegends.tqn.com/library/weekly/aa062997.html  And I quote: “The National Kidney Foundation has repeatedly issued requests for actual victims of organ thieves to come forward and tell their stories. None have.” That’s “none” as in “zero”. Not even your friend’s cousin.

3. Neiman Marcus doesn’t really sell a $200 cookie recipe. And even if they do, we all have it. And even if you don’t, you can get a copy at: http://www.bl.net/forwards/cookie.html  Then, if you make the recipe, decide the cookies are that awesome, feel free to pass the recipe on.

4. If the latest NASA rocket disaster(s) DID contain plutonium that went to particulate over the eastern seaboard, do you REALLY think this information would reach the public via an AOL chain letter?

5. There is no “Good Times” virus. In fact, you should never, ever, ever forward any email containing any virus warning unless you first confirm that an actual site of an actual company that actually deals with viruses. Try: http://www.norton.com . And even then, don’t forward it. We don’t care. Rarely would you get a virus from a flashing IM or email. Better yet, keep your antivirus software up to date and then you won’t have to worry about it!

6. There is no gang initiation plot to murder any motorist who flashes headlights at another car driving at night without lights.

7. If you’re using Outlook, IE, or Netscape to write email, turn off the “HTML encoding.” Those of us on Unix shells can’t read it, and don’t care enough to save the attachment and then view it with a web browser, since you’re probably forwarding us a copy of the Neiman Marcus Cookie Recipe anyway.

8. If you still absolutely MUST forward that 10th-generation message from a friend, at least have the decency to trim the eight miles of headers showing everyone else who’s received it over the last 6 months. It sure wouldn’t hurt to get rid of all the “” that begin each line either. Besides, if it has gone around that many times we’ve probably already seen it.

9. Craig Shergold (or Sherwood, or Sherman, etc.) in England is not dying of cancer or anything else at this time and would like everyone to stop sending him their business cards. He apparently is no longer a “little boy” either.

10. The “Make a Wish” foundation is a real organization doing fine work, but they have had to establish a special toll free hot line in response to the large number of Internet hoaxes using their good name and reputation. It is distracting them from the important work they do.

11. Nothing bad will happen to you if you refuse to forward the next forwarded email you receive.

12. As a general rule, e-mail “signatures” are easily faked and mean nothing to anyone with any power to do anything about whatever the competition is complaining about.

13) IBM is not giving away free computers because Netscape bought AOL.

14) A little dog (or any picture) is not going to pop up on the screen if you forward an email to any number of people.

15) Neither the GAP nor Abercrombie & Fitch are giving away free clothes or gift certificates.

16) The US Postal Service is not going to stop printing Black Heritage Stamps because Black people are not buying them.

17) You will not go to hell or suffer some catastrophic event if you break the circle of forwarders.

18) The likelihood of someone from Nigeria (or anywhere else in the world) wanting to transfer $26 million dollars into your bank account is practically nil. The hundreds of copycat scammers who send out these messages hope to bilk you out of your hard-earned dough by tricking you into revealing numbers and codes for your bank accounts. Don’t even answer the emails. It’ll just allow them to sell your working email address to marketers, which will only triple the amount of spam you already receive!

19) Find some good spam-control software, install it, and use it — so you can avoid even being exposed to some of the smut that’s coming out over the Internet these days. Norton has a good product (Norton AntiSpam) as do many other vendors.

20) You can’t increase the size of any of your body parts by taking pills. Besides, even if you could, you’d want to be under a doctor’s care to do it. Pity the mindless guys who make their living sending out this kind of garbage. Do them a favor by forcing them to get a *real* marketing job — by ignoring their product!

Bottom Line … composing e-mail or posting something on the Net is as easy as writing on the walls of a public restroom. Don’t automatically believe it until it’s proven false… *assume* it’s false, unless there is proof that it’s true.

Now, forward this message to ten friends, and you could win a chance to spend a day with Elvis Presley and the President of the USA (yeah, right!).

(*The above 20 items were adapted from an email forwarded to us by, we think, by a Brigada participant named Evelyn. However — who knows for sure! :-) Now isn’t that ironic. :-) )

Doug Lucas