A hoax is deceptive information intentionally created by someone but spread by others who are duped into passing it on. Some hoaxes are quite obvious, while others may be very subtle and hard to detect.


Reasons for creating a hoax:

(1) prank or practical joke

(2) besmirch a competitor or enemy

(3) for profit

(4) misguided beliefs


Features of a typical hoax:

(1) There may be reference made to an authority ("credibility by association").

(2) Specific references or corroborating evidence are lacking or poorly documented or cannot be confirmed.

(3) The message appeals to a primal fear, warns of a threat, promises to help someone or asks for money.

(4) Some of the statements are based on true facts, but these may be outdated and no longer relevant.

(5) The message may seem too good to be true.

(6) The message often relates to a "hot" social topic, such as AIDS, environmental issues, politics or religion.

(7) There is a request to forward the message on to many other people.

(8) There is a warning of dire consequences if requests are not complied with.


How to respond to a suspected hoax:

(1) Challenge the information and ask questions.

(2) Check the references to all assertions, remembering that some statements may be true.

(3) Check several web-sites dealing with hoaxes to see if the message is listed as a known hoax.

(4) Do not pass the message on to others unless the information has been definitely confirmed and there is a compelling reason.


To read more or access our algorithms and calculators, please log in or register.