Posted by Carlos Arias, March 2011

It is not unusual to receive alarming emails warning that your email service will shortly be shut down or your favorite social networking site will no longer be free. It happens to all of us. Also, these messages are usually signed by some big shot in the relevant company…. But, don’t worry!! Fortunately enough, these messages also state that if you forward them to X people, you will be saved from all these calamities.

I am sure most of you have already realized that I am talking about computer hoaxes. A hoax, in computer jargon, is simply a false warning about some danger that really does not exist. They are normally harmless, except when they contain links that take you to a malware-downloading site.

But then the question is: why are you asked to forward them? Well, the answer is this: these chain letters are normally designed to collect email addresses later used to send spam messages, malware or other hoaxes. So, if you receive a message similar to this, NEVER EVER forward it.

Social networks are becoming an increasingly important part of our lives and cyber-crooks are turning to them to spread their creations. Hoaxes are no different, and they are starting to proliferate on sites like Facebook, as shown by the example below:

Another popular scam exploits users’ natural curiosity by offering an application that supposedly allows them to view who visited their Facebook profile or even sneak into other people’s conversation history. Who wouldn’t like to discover other people’s secrets? Fraudsters even offer users the possibility to activate their contacts’ webcam. That is, sheer espionage…

Well, I am sorry to inform that there is no such application, and even if there was, it would be absolutely illegal. If you actually downloaded it, you would become infected and the victim of espionage yourself. The predator becomes the prey!

In short: Don’t believe everything delivered to your inbox. Actually, be very wary of messages you receive from unknown sources. And no, you can rest assured that they are not shutting down Hotmail, and you won’t have to pay for your Facebook account if you don’t forward this message.

Finally, keep an antivirus installed and update it frequently. This is your barrier against spam and phishing.If you are not sure about something during the installation or update processes, don’t leave it for later. Look for the appropriate solution in the support forums available to you for any queries you might have.