Scam alert: If you get an email from the IRS, it’s not them

If you get a note from the IRS (Eternal Revenue Service), it’s usually not a good thing unless it comes with a check. But if you get an email from the IRS, you should really pay attention. It might not be them.

I got a strange one in my email box the other day, and it was a genuine head-scratcher:

* * *

Gmail Team mail-noreply@google.com
Jun 2 (5 days ago) 

to me

The message “Your Federal tax report #ID9837” from Internal Revenue Service (customer.service@irs.gov) contained a virus or a suspicious attachment. It was therefore not fetched from your account editor@ericpulsifer.com and has been left on the server.

If you wish to write to Internal, just hit reply and send Internal a message.
Thanks,

The Gmail Team

 

* * *

OK. Here’s the deal. Whoever it was sent it to my business email address, which hasn’t existed very long. See, all my emails feed directly into my gmail box, making it easier to keep track of stuff and handle all my addresses without having to log in and out and in and out. Email addresses are cheap.

Anyway, I went to my business email box:

* * *

Your Federal tax report #ID***7
From : “Internal Revenue Service” <customer.service@irs.gov>
To :
editor@ericpulsifer.com
Received :

06-02-2012 10:18 PM

Tax Refund,

The analysis of the last annual calculations of your fiscal activity has indicated that
you are entitled to receive a tax refund of $382.34
Please submit a request of the tax refund and a processing of the request will take 7-14 days.
A tax refund can be delayed by different reasons.
For instance submission of invalid records or sending after the deadline.

Please find the form of your tax refund attached and fill out it and send a report.

Yours sincerely,
Internal Revenue Service.

* * *

That’s the email, and it’s pure horse dung. I didn’t even bother to open the attachment. But as far as phishing/information mining/scamming goes, it’s an oldie but goodie.

Here’s what I got from the Internet from the Internet Crime Complaint Center:

* * *

Intelligence Note  Prepared by the Internet Crime
Complaint Center (IC3)
December 1, 2005
E-mail disguised as the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) phishing for personal information
The FBI
has become aware of a spam email claiming the recipient is eligible to receive a
tax refund for $571.94. The email purports to be from tax-returns@irs.gov
with the subject line of “IRS
Tax Refund.” A link is provided in the email to access a form required
to be completed in order to receive the refund. The link appears to connect to the
true IRS website. However, the recipient is redirected to
http://www.porterfam.org/2005/, where personal data, including credit
card information, is captured.
This e-mail is a hoax. Do not follow the provided link.
Be cautious when responding to requests or special offers delivered through unsolicited
email:  Guard your personal information as well as your account information carefully. Keep a list of all your credit cards and account information along with the card
issuer’s contact information. If your monthly statement looks suspicious or you
lose your card(s), contact the issuer immediately.
If you have received this, or a similar hoax, please file a complaint at
www.IC3.gov.

* * *

Looking a little further, I checked from the jackass’ mouth itself, going straight to the IRS website. I pasted it directly in here, so it may look funky.

The upshot is, they’re not going to use email or social media to contact you:

* * *

The IRS does not initiate contact with taxpayers by email or any social media tools to request personal or financial information

What is phishing?
Phishing is a scam typically carried out by unsolicited email and/or websites that pose as legitimate sites and lure unsuspecting victims to provide personal and financial information. 

All unsolicited email claiming to be from either the IRS or any other IRS-related components such as the Office of Professional Responsibility or EFTPS, should be reported to phishing@irs.gov.

However, if you have experienced monetary losses due to an IRS-related incident please file a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission through their Complaint Assistant to make that information available to investigators.

What to do if you receive a suspicious IRS-related communication

If

Then

You receive an email claiming to be from the IRS that contains a request for personal information …
  1. Do not reply.
  2. Do not open any attachments. Attachments may contain malicious code that will infect your computer.
  3. Do not click on any links.
    If you clicked on links in a suspicious email or phishing website and entered confidential information, visit our identity protection page.
  4. Forward the email as-is, to us at phishing@irs.gov.
  5. After you forward the email and/or header information to us, delete the original email message you received.

Note:
Please forward the full original email to us at phishing@irs.gov. Do not forward scanned images of printed emails as that strips the email of valuable information only available in the electronic copy.

You discover a website on the Internet that claims to be the IRS but you suspect it is bogus … send the URL of the suspicious site to phishing@irs.gov. Please add in the subject line of the email, ‘Suspicious website’.
You receive a phone call or paper letter via mail from an individual claiming to be the IRS but you suspect they are not an IRS employee … Phone call: 

  1. Ask for a call back number and employee badge number.
  2. Contact the IRS to determine if the caller is an IRS employee with a legitimate need to contact you.
  3. If you determine the person calling you is an IRS employee with a legitimate need to contact you, call them back.

Letter or notice via paper mail:

  1. Contact the IRS to determine if the mail is a legitimate IRS letter.
  2. If it is a legitimate IRS letter, reply if needed.

If caller or party that sent the paper letter is not legitimate, contact the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration at 1.800.366.4484.

You receive an unsolicited e-mail or fax, involving a stock or share purchase … and you are a U.S. citizen located in the United States or its territories or a U.S. citizen living abroad. 

  1. Complete the appropriate complaint form with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission.
  2. Forward email to phishing@irs.gov.
    Please add in the subject line of the email, ‘Stock’.
  3. If you are a victim of monetary or identity theft, you may submit a complaint through the FTC Complaint Assistant.

… and you are not a U.S. citizen and reside outside the United States.

  1. Complete the appropriate complaint form with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission.
  2. Contact your securities regulator and file a complaint.
  3. Forward email to phishing@irs.gov.
    Please add in the subject line of the e-mail, ‘Stock’.
  4. If you are a victim of monetary or identity theft, you may report your complaint to econsumer.gov.
You receive an unsolicited fax (such as Form W8-BEN) claiming to be from the IRS, requesting personal information … Contact the IRS to determine if the fax is from the IRS. 

  • If you learn the fax is not from the IRS, please send us the information via email at phishing@irs.gov. In the subject line of the email, please type the word ‘FAX’.
You have a tax-related question …Note: Do not submit tax-related questions to phishing@irs.gov. If you have a tax-related question, unrelated to phishing or identity theft, please contact the IRS.

How to identify phishing email scams claiming to be from the IRS and bogus IRS websites


The IRS does not initiate contact with taxpayers by email to request personal or financial information. This includes any type of electronic communication, such as text messages and social media channels.

The IRS does not …

… request detailed personal information through email.
… send any communication requesting your PIN numbers, passwords or similar access information for credit cards, banks or other financial accounts.


What to do if you receive a suspicious email message that does not claim to be from the IRS

If

Then

You receive a suspicious phishing email not claiming to be from the IRS … Forward the email as-is to reportphishing@antiphishing.org.
You receive an email you suspect contains malicious code or a malicious attachment and you HAVE clicked on the link or downloaded the attachment … Visit OnGuardOnline.gov to learn what to do if you suspect you have malware on your computer.
You receive an email you suspect contains malicious code or a malicious attachment and you HAVE NOT clicked on the link or downloaded the attachment … Forward the email to your Internet Service Provider’s abuse department and/or to spam@uce.gov.

* * *

If you’re into links, here’s the IRS announcement.

So I’m not going to open this attachment. I’m not going to bother.

I know they don’t owe me a refund, and if they did they’re not going to tell me unless I ask. What do I think they are, stupid?

(Don’t answer that!)

So if you get an email from the IRS, forget it. It’s not them.

###

 

 

 

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Hoax has pretend terrorists attack nonexistent town


We passed the eighth anniversary of the 9/11 attacks unscathed, except for a suicide bombing by a nonexistent group on an equally nonexistent town.

In fact, the only real thing about this “attack” was the press coverage. In Germany, the DPA wire service — which is similar to the Associated Press — was all over this one, after an attack on the town of Bluewater was thwarted and The Berlin Boys rap group arrestedin the plot.

Except the town, which reportedly straddles the Colorado River between San Bernardino County, California and La Paz County, Arizona, doesn’t really exist. And neither does the Berlin Boys group.

According to Wired:

The work of German filmmakers peddling a satirical movie called Short Cut to Hollywood, the elaborate hoax involved at least two faked websites, a faked Wikipedia entry and California phone numbers for “public safety” officials that were actually being answered by hoaxsters in Germany using Skype … the hoax has transfixed this country. It prompted a 1,000-word tome on the website of Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, Germany’s most respected newspaper, and even a press conference denouncing the incident by the DPA – the German wire service responsible for first disseminating the news about the “attack” …

There really is a Bluewater, kinda sorta. Although the “official town website” carries a link to the Berlin Boys and is probably fake, there are some other indicators. Sperling’s Best Places lists Bluewater with a population of 331 (counting dogs?) and not much else. Wrapped among the Colorado River Indian Reservation, the nearest California town is Earp and the closest anything is the Bluewater Casino in Parker, Arizona. Earp is so insignificant that I haven’t found population figures for the town, but 1,545 people live in the 92242 Zip code, where the town sits. (The Web site ZipSkinny, where I got this information, reports that no schools are listed in that area. That’s how small the place is.)

Out there, you just might see roadrunners using oven mitts to pick up lizards on those hot days.

Part of the target’s “appeal” is that it’s so remote.

… locals were blissfully unaware of the hoax that involved their sparsely populated resort area, whose greatest claim to fame is a nearby casino. Hardly anyone lives on the California side of Bluewater, says Dorothy Randall, who runs the Bermuda Palms RV Park in Earp. There’s no city hall or council. The area is called Bluewater by locals, so it wouldn’t make sense for a suicide bombing to have occurred in town anyway, because there really is no town to begin with, Randall said. “There’s not much here.”

I lived in Bullhead City, Arizona for five years (and drove by Earp to get there) but I’d never heard of the place. The only Bluewater I knew was the name of my old voting precinct in Bullhead. I’ve driven by Nothing (along Highway 93, with a population of 4 and, last I heard, enjoying a renaissance) but never saw a Bluewater.

Like, if the place was hit in a suicide bombing, who’d know?

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Of five fw: cell phone tricks, one really works

I love this Internet thing. Through this technology, misinformation can spread faster and stay around much longer than it could have in the Dark Ages of maybe 25 years ago.

Recently I got an email from Mom, one of those wonderful Fw: subjects that make the rounds and some swear is gospel. This missive was a fairly old one outlining some things you can use your cell phone for besides making calls. She forwarded it to my brother and to me, knowing that at least one of us would pick it apart and have an answer. Here’s her preface:

“Hi, Fact-checkers! Is this stuff valid? If so, it could be useful information. Thanks for checking for Ol’Mom! All my love, Mom”

I did this, partly by running my own tests, and partly by going to Snopes, the great debunker. Here’s the upshot: Of these four cell phone claims, four are at least partially bogus.

Anyway, here’s the note, with my comments.

====================

Five Things You Never Knew Your Cell Phone Could Do
For all the folks with cell phones. This should be printed and kept in your car, purse, and wallet. Good information to have with you.

There are a few things that can be done in times of grave emergencies. Your mobile phone can actually be a life saver or an emergency tool for survival.

Check out the things that you can do with it:

FIRST Emergency – The Emergency Number worldwide for Mobile is 112. If you find yourself out of the coverage area of your mobile network and there is an emergency, dial 112 and the mobile will search any existing network to establish the emergency number for you, and interestingly, this number 112 can be dialed even if the keypad is locked. Try it out.

My comments: This might work, if you’re in Europe. According to Snopes, 112 is their version of our 911. I tried it here in South Carolina and the recorded message indicated the number has been changed or disconnected. In other words, it’s every bit as useful as some of the other “alternative” emergency numbers you may have read about in your email box. I wrote about this some time ago, as a matter of fact.

SECOND Have you locked your keys in the car? Does your car have remote keyless entry? This may come in handy someday. Good reason to own a cell phone: If you lock your keys In the car and the spare keys are at home, call someone at home on their cell phone from your cell phone. Hold your cell phone about a foot from your car door and have the person at your home press the unlock button, holding it near the mobile phone on the ear end. Your car will unlock. Saves someone from having to drive your keys to you. Distance is no object. You could be hundreds of miles away, and if you can reach someone who has the other ‘remote’ for your car, you can unlock the doors (or the trunk). Editor’s Note: It works fine! We tried it out and it unlocked Our car over a cell phone!

My comments: It’s just another good reason to avoid those bad drugs before going onto the Internet.

THIRD – Hidden Battery Power. Imagine your cell battery is very low. To activate, press the keys *3370#. Your cell phone will restart with this reserve and the instrument will show a 50% increase in battery. This reserve will get charged when you charge your cell phone next time.

My comments: Doesn’t work with my LG. Dial it in and hit OK, and the phone stares at me. Dial it in and hit SEND, and all I get is an admonition to check the number and try again. But, some cell phones (particularly Nokia) will give you better battery life if you punch in *#4720# – but there’s a trade-off. Your sound quality will suck. Not quite the same thing.

FOURTH – How to disable a STOLEN mobile phone: To check your Mobile phone’s serial number, key in the following digits on your phone: *#06#. A 15-digit code will appear on the screen. This number is unique to your handset. Write it down and keep it somewhere safe. When your phone get stolen, you can phone your service provider and give them this code. They will then be able to block your handset so even if the thief changes the SIM card, your phone will be totally useless. You probably won’t get your phone back, but at least you know that who ever stole it can’t use/sell it either. If everybody does this, there would be no point in people stealing mobile phones.

My comments: I tried this on my LG phone, and got the same result as I did while trying out the third tip. But it seems that with some cell phones you will get that 15-digit number. Whether it’s any help in shutting down a stolen cell phone is “limited,” the folks at Snopes report. Better to call your phone carrier’s customer service and explain your situation; the guy answering may even speak English.

And Finally…..

(My comment: Good — that’s about all the crap I can choke down at one sitting!)

FIFTH – Free Directory Service for Cells: Cell phone companies are charging us $1.00 to $1.75 or more for 411 information calls when they don’t have to. Most of us do not carry a telephone directory in our vehicle, which makes this situation even more of a problem. When you need to use the 411 information option, simply dial: (800)FREE411, or (800) 373-3411 without incurring any charge at all. Program this into your cell phone now.

My comments: I do have this on my cell phone, along with Google 411 (the number is 800-466-4411), and I’ve never used either one. Therefore, I can’t vouch for the authenticity here. But according to Snopes, this is pretty much the straight stuff although your own cell phone carrier may still charge for the call.

==========================

OK. I’m fairly savvy with all this electronic gear, and there are a few things I can do with my plain-vanilla cell phone. I can post short subjects to my blog. I can send off something to Twitter. I can check the weather, or put things on my Google calendar.

But forget about opening your car with it, unless you fling it through the windshield …

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Hoax: Break it to me gently?

I found this recently in Lifehacker, and it ties in well with this other posting. Here goes:

How Can I Explain an Internet Hoax to Non-Techie Friends? … When it comes to hoaxes and non-techie users, being gentle is really the wrong tactic. It’s only a matter of time before they fall for something that actually harms them, by stealing their information, or something else. They need to learn, and quickly … personally I reply all with a link to Snopes or elsewhere, explaining that it’s a hoax. Then I include this line: “Every email that asks you to forward to all your friends is a hoax, or a joke by somebody that just wants to clog people’s email.”

Here’s the original article, which was in the Superuser forum. Interesting stuff, by the way.

Good, sound advice. Personally, I get an itchy trigger finger when I get emails marked Fw:, and that finger hovers over the DELETE key. Sure, some of the Fw: stuff is funny, some is inspiring, and much of the photography that gets forwarded to me is flat-out stunning (current screen background is an airborne shot of the Blue Angels, which I got from that slush pile). I’ve written plenty of columns from something I got in FW: land. But any computer advice, or any rumor, or anything that may seem important — check it out.

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Problems and solutions on the wing

This was sent to me some time ago, and yeah, this is my kind of humor.

These communications, by the way, are totally unsubstantiated (you know how much garbage finds its way onto the Internet), so I can’t vouch for their authenticity. Let’s get that up front.

With that, these are purported to be communications between pilots and mechanics of the United Parcel Service air fleet. So suspend your belief/disbelief for a minute and enjoy. You can do that, can you?

==========

Remember it takes a college degree to fly a plane, but only a high school diploma to fix one; a reassurance to those of us who fly routinely in our jobs. After every flight, UPS pilots fill out a form, called a ‘gripe sheet,’ which tells mechanics about problems with the aircraft. The mechanics correct the problems; document their repairs on the form, and then pilots review the gripe sheets before the next flight.

Never let it be said that ground crews lack a sense of humor. Here are some actual maintenance complaints submitted by UPS ‘ pilots (marked with a P) and the solutions recorded (marked with an S) by maintenance engineers.

By the way, UPS is the only major airline that has never, ever, had an accident.

P: Left inside main tire almost needs replacement.
S: Almost replaced left inside main tire.
*
P: Test flight OK, except auto-land very rough.
S: Auto-land not installed on this aircraft.
*
P: Something loose in cockpit
S: Something tightened in cockpit
*
P: Dead bugs on windshield.
S: Live bugs on back-order.
*
P: Autopilot in altitude-hold mode produces a 200 feet per minute descent.
S: Cannot reproduce problem on ground.
*
P: Evidence of leak on right main landing gear.
S: Evidence removed.
*
P: DME volume unbelievably loud.
S: DME volume set to more believable level.
*
P: Friction locks cause throttle levers to stick.
S: That’s what friction locks are for.
*
P: IFF inoperative in OFF mode.
S: IFF always inoperative in OFF mode.
*
P: Suspected crack in windshield.
S: Suspect you’re right.
*
P: Number 3 engine missing.
S: Engine found on right wing after brief search
*
P: Aircraft handles funny. (I love this one!)
S: Aircraft warned to straighten up, fly right and be serious.
*
P: Target radar hums.
S: Reprogrammed target radar with lyrics.
*
P: Mouse in cockpit.
S: Cat installed.
*
And the best one for last
*
P: Noise coming from under instrument panel. Sounds like a midget pounding
on something with a hammer.
S: Took hammer away from midget.

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Gmail account note probably work of fools

I’ve had Gmail accounts for several years now, and just today I received a most disturbing message:

Dear Account User,
This Email is from Gmail customer care and we are sending it to every Gmail accounts owner for safety. We are having congestion due to the anonymous registration of Gmail accounts so we are shutting down some Gmail accounts and your account was among those to be deleted. We are sending this email to you so that you can verify and let us know if you still want to use this account. If you are still interested please confirm your account by filling the space below.Your User name, password, date of birth and your country information would be needed to verify your account.
Due to the congestion in all Gmail users and removal of all unused Gmail Accounts. Gmail would be shutting down all unused Accounts, you will have to confirm your E-mail by filling out your Login Information below after clicking the reply button or your account will be suspended within 24 hours for security reasons.

* User name: ……………………….

* Password: …………………………..

* Date of Birth: ……………………….

* Country Or Territory: ………………..

Warning!!! Account owner that refuses to update his or her account within Seven days of receiving this warning will lose his or her account permanently.
Thank you for using Gmail !

The Gmail Team
G MAI L BETA

Anyway, that’s the message.
So far as I know, it’s all crap.
Just swallow down that bile rising in the throat for a moment, OK?
A couple of things:
Why anyone would want my account name and password is beyond me, unless it’s for nefarious purposes.
Check it:
If it was from Gmail, they’d already have all that.
Got it?
I had a partial answer here, which if nothing else confirmed what I’d already figured.
So if you have gmail and received that message, ignore it. Keep in mind, that’s what happens when we have idiots on the Internet.
(Posted simultaneously in The Column, Reloaded and The Workbench, Reloaded)
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Jumbo snakes multiply in Everglades

Reptile expert Joe Wasilewski holds a Burmese python he found in the Florida Everglades.

OK, the snaky frame of mind continues.

According to CNN, very large snakes are breeding like mad all over Florida, and it’s tough keeping track of them.
Here’s an excerpt:
Joe Wasilewski drives along a narrow stretch of road through Florida’s Everglades. The sun is setting, night is coming on quickly, and Wasilewski is on the prowl for snakes — and one snake in particular. “The next 10 miles seem to be the hot spot for Burmese pythons,” he said … Wasilewski is a state-sanctioned snake-hunter who regularly scours this area for the reptiles. The Everglades, known as the River of Grass, has the perfect space and climate for pythons to hide and breed. And breed they do: The largest clutches found in the Everglades have contained 83 eggs …
Perhaps a little self-vindication here: I covered this issue a year ago. An excerpt:
The southeast coast is indigenous to a wide variety of snakes. Rattlers could be seen out here, as well as copperheads, water moccasins, and land developers … however, the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) predicts Burmese pythons may take up residence in the southeast — in fact, the entire southern third of the country within the next hundred years, if there is indeed a warming trend as all evidence suggests. It’s a comfort to know Burmese pythons are not poisonous snakes. A good thing; there are plenty of those kind around here. What’s not so comforting is that pythons are just plain big. Big enough to hunt deer and alligator. Try 20 feet long and around 250 pounds. That’s one big piece of reptile …
Stay tuned. Not all snakes hang out in D.C.
(Photo from CNN)
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It’s getting harder to tell who’s really dead

Britney Spears: Dead or alive? (Photo from CNN website)

Like Mark Twain once wrote, rumors of his demise were greatly exaggerated. But with the anything-goes, who-gives-a-rip “news” style on the Internet, it’ll be even tougher filtering out the real news from the horse manure. From CNN …

(CNN) — After a string of real celebrity deaths last week, the Internet and online social networks killed a few more stars.

Pop star Britney Spears was among those falsely claimed to be dead recently.

Despite what you may have read, Jeff Goldblum, Natalie Portman, George Clooney, Britney Spears, Harrison Ford and Rick Astley are alive … fake news of their deaths flew across the Internet — particularly on online social networks like Twitter and Facebook — after Michael Jackson, Farrah Fawcett and Ed McMahon were reported dead.

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A living example of ‘Fly United’

It’s October and love is in the air in the Southeast — with a cloud of particularly amorous flies.

Known as the lovebug (Plecia nearctica) and actually a fly (kin to the May fly), they’re out in full force for their twice-a-year (sometimes) stage show. Lovebugs travel in pairs, locked together at the end of the abdomen, and spend their adult lives in a sort of airborne ecstacy — not even bothering to eat.

This week they’ve been everywhere, doing the thing that they do. And getting in the way. And spreading scandal everywhere. Copulating on my shirt. Boffing on my head. Fornicating on my work equipment. As if I’m not even there.

I did see one unattached lovebug land on the bench at work, but it didn’t stay in that condition for very long. While I pondered where the wheels might have fallen off my own love life, a second unattached lovebug dropped down, and in one smooth motion they coupled. He didn’t even bother to buy her a drink first.

According to Wikipedia and other sources, these lovebugs spend most of their lives as larvae, living in tall grass, well hidden. As adults, the females live only two days, but they make the most out of that short time.

I first saw these lovebugs within days of my arrival in Charleston back in 1997. I’d never seen anything like that before, and of course I had to ask around. Strangest things I’ve ever seen.

Lovebugs have two mating seasons, in the spring and the fall. Sometimes they keep a lower profile; one year you might not see any while the next year you could see a lot of them. Their off-and-on appearance — not to mention their oversexed behavior — lends itself to its share of urban legend. One story has it that they’re not a real species; they’re a genetic experiment gone bad at the University of Florida. A variation I’ve heard is that they’re created by Monsanto to keep mosquito populations down. Untrue, say the folks at snopes.com. They are a real species, indigenous to Central America, and may have stowed away on a ship (in the champagne suite?) and landed here. Now, they can be seen along the Gulf coast and lower Atlantic coast, as far north as Wilmington. But they’re susceptible to weather patterns — in the wake of Hurricane Ike there has been an incredible number of sightings along the Texas coast.

Generally, lovebugs are considered harmless. About the only (other) obnoxious quality they have is that a bunch of them may splatter themselves on cars, and their slightly acidic guts can etch the paint job. And yeah, they do get in the way.

Other than that, they’re more entertaining than sea monkeys.

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How misinformation gets up and around

It didn’t start with much here in Charleston. A few local gas stations posted signs asking customers to limit fuel purchases to 10 gallons.But it started a short-lived panic Thursday, with talk of $5 gas by late afternoon.

The rationale sounded good, anyway. Fuel suppliers were watching as Hurricane Ike hunted for a spot along the Texas coast to hit, and some refineries shut down in anticipation. Offshore rigs were hanging out in the Gulf with all kinds of potential for damage, and things were just plain uncertain.

It’s when times are uncertain that rumors really grow legs. In this case, word went out via phone calls, text messages, email, and mouth to ear.

I heard this rumor shortly after 3 p.m. Thursday while at work, and already my coworkers were in panic mode. Nearly all made plans to stock up on gas as soon as they clocked out (I didn’t have to worry about it, being on a bike). One of my youngest crewmates lives a fair distance away, recently got an SUV (which never met a gas station it didn’t like), and asked to take off for a few minutes to fuel up. Permission granted.

It turns out my coworker got a phone call from a friend who said her uncle’s friend’s concubine’s dog’s boss (or something) got an email warning that gas would go up to $5 or $6 a gallon by 5 p.m. That was the gist anyway.

All of which smelled like misinformation, like urban legend to me, and I expressed my doubts.

On the way home I checked out all the gas stations on Rivers Avenue, which is the main drag in North Charleston. We’re talking 4:30 to 5 p.m., the front edge of rush hour. Some of the stations were crowded, a little more than usual, but no gigantic lines. Gas stayed at the area’s norm, around $3.50 for unleaded. Nothing unusual there. I stopped at a BP on Rivers and I-526 for provisions, and it was the normal level of business there. The normal clientele. As many folks came in for quart bottles of malt liquor as they did for gallons of gas, making it a fairly typical day at that BP.

In other parts of Charleston, my coworkers reported, the gas stations were pretty well crowded Some long lines and a lot of waiting to get to a pump. At least one popular station in the West Ashley area had run out of unleaded fairly quickly. But the prices held steady throughout, which did surprise me.

I can understand, again, the panic. Gas hit a (then) all-time high while Hurricane Katrina was killing people in New Orleans. For the first time here, it topped $3 a gallon, while it was up to $4 in parts of Georgia during the storm.

And, yeah, some of my more conspiracy-minded friends noticed that this was on the seventh anniversary of 9/11, therefore it meant something. I don’t buy that one, though.

This one was, to all intents and purposes, pretty harmless. So folks were in a hurry to fillk their tanks? No problem; they’re going to use that gas sometime anyway.

Generally, though, this was instructive in how misinformation starts, is disseminated, grows legs, and eventually fades to black.

Here’s another take, from a Realtor in Georga:

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