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           Gullibility Virus Spreading over the Internet!

WASHINGTON, D.C.--The Institute for the Investigation of Irregular
Internet Phenomena announced today that many Internet users are
becoming infected by a new virus that causes them to believe without
question every groundless story, legend, and dire warning that shows
up in their inbox or on their browser.  The Gullibility Virus, as it
is called, apparently makes people believe and forward copies of silly
hoaxes relating to cookie recipes, email viruses, taxes on modems, and
get-rich-quick schemes [perhaps conspiracy theories should be included

"These are not just readers of tabloids or people who buy lottery
tickets based on fortune cookie numbers," a spokesman said. "Most are
otherwise normal people, who would laugh at the same stories if told
to them by a stranger on a street corner."  However, once these same
people become infected with the Gullibility Virus, they believe
anything they read on the Internet.

"My immunity to tall tales and bizarre claims is all gone," reported
one weeping victim.  "I believe every warning message and sick child
story my friends forward to me, even though most of the messages are

Another victim, now in remission, added, "When I first heard about
Good Times, I just accepted it without question.  After all, there
were dozens of other recipients on the mail header, so I thought the
virus must be true."  It was a long time, the victim said, before she
could stand up at a Hoaxes Anonymous meeting and state, "My name is
Jane, and I've been hoaxed."  Now, however, she is spreading the word.
"Challenge and check whatever you read,"  she says.

Internet users are urged to examine themselves for symptoms of the
virus, which include the following:

      * the willingness to believe improbable stories
        without thinking
      * the urge to forward multiple copies of such
        stories to others
      * a lack of desire to take three minutes to check
        to see if a story is true

T. C. is an example of someone recently infected.  He told one
reporter, "I read on the Net that the major ingredient in almost all
shampoos makes your hair fall out, so I've stopped using shampoo."
When told about the Gullibility Virus, T. C. said he would stop
reading email, so that he would not become infected.

Anyone with symptoms like these is urged to seek help immediately.
Experts recommend that at the first feelings of gullibility, Internet
users rush to their favorite search engine and look up the item
tempting them to thoughtless credence.  Most hoaxes, legends, and tall
tales have been widely discussed and exposed by the Internet community.

Courses in critical thinking are also widely available, and there is
online help from many sources, including

      * Department of Energy Computer Incident Advisory
        Capability at

      * Symantec Anti Virus Research Center at

      * McAfee Associates Virus Hoax List at

      * Dr. Solomons Hoax Page at

      * The Urban Legends Web Site at

      * Urban Legends Reference Pages at

      * Datafellows Hoax Warnings at

Those people who are still symptom free can help inoculate themselves
against the Gullibility Virus by reading some good material on
evaluating sources, such as

      * Evaluating Internet Research Sources at

      * Evaluation of Information Sources at

      * Bibliography on Evaluating Internet Resources at

Lastly, as a public service, Internet users can help stamp out the
Gullibility Virus by sending copies of this message to anyone who
forwards them a hoax.