Recently I received the same email from two people — one on CA-125, which is ostensibly supposed to screen for ovarian cancer. The email is largely in caps, and rather hysterical in tone, but two very smart women I know passed it on anyway. We’re all susceptible to email hoaxes, no matter how smart we are; there’s always some cause or plea or element of actual fact they’re related to which makes us want to believe they’re real. I, for example, forwarded the “They’re going to defund Sesame Street!” email probably two times before I thought to check around to see if it was true.
My own policy is to check and see if there is a date associated with petition spam, in particular. I think any petition worth its snuff should be date-stamped, or it’s likely to circulate on the Internet from now til society completely falls apart (two or three years from now). From here on in my plan is also going to be checking Snopes.com, at least, before I forward something. The site keeps track of urban legends, hysterical spam, and other rumors. Once you find the spam you’re about to resend right next to an ancient rumor about immigrants getting free cars and tax breaks from the government, you feel a little silly, believe you me.