It’s an old story, the boy who cried wolf. Today, that wolf is going to wolf down my hard drive, gobble up all my software and gnash through my ADSL cable. No wolf and all I’m left with is an in-box burgeoning with false alarms. “Bill Gates is going to eat you”, “Nigeria will remove your right kidney if you don’t click here” and “beware the Mel Gibson virus, it will drink you out of house and home”. If I let my guard down long enough a real threat might just meander through my firewall and tear my digital world asunder. It’s time to get wise and realise.
First port of call for any potential fear-mongering rumour, or any rumour at all for that matter, is www.snopes.com. This site has been around since the Internet was a toddler. Snopes sifts wheat from chaff and clarifies just what is real and what was dreamed up by some bored yet highly creative ‘netizen’. Every imaginable hoax and urban legend is documented in conveniently categorised chapters. Somehow the Snopes folks are able to get to the bottom of it all and determine the truth. Before you CC the latest baseless rumour to your entire contact list, please, please, please Snope it first.
Those friendly folks from the ACCC have been getting with the times recently, launching www.scamwatch.gov.au – an excellent portal devoted to exposing on, and off-line fraudsters, scammers and spammers. I wish I had known about this site BEFORE I wired that $5,000 bank transfer fee to King Ngebe’s sole surviving relative!
If you send me a hoax email passed off as a genuine alert, you are really part of the problem, not the solution. Be careful, one day a scam baiter (www.419eater.com) might get your number. Hilarious pranks played out on scammers who are as gullible as their victims. Check out the amazing photos and videos – and think twice before you fall for anything even remotely smelling of seafood.
Other sources of clarity in the seemingly endless fog of Internet codswallop include www.hoax-slayer.com – dedicated almost exclusively to email scams and rumours, www.nonprofit.net/hoax – a community service I really needed prior to sending a hundred bucks off to fund that poor kid’s dying wish, and www.museumofhoaxes.com – a laugh-a-thon of stupendous magnitude.
OK, so I dropped myself right in it. A few too many tequilas and the bigoted idiot that lives inside all of us rose from the depths of my tortured soul. In one mad evening chatting with the constabulary I destroyed a lifetime of hard-earned reputation.
What better method to restore the planet’s faith in my character than viral marketing? Even if I did nothing more than posting a mildly derogatory remark about one of my valuable clients, Google can be a harsh mistress when my name pops up randomly in their search results. Here are a few excellent places to begin repairing the damage using, of all things, Search Engine Optimisation techniques. www.networkworld.com/community/node/15081, www.ehow.com/how_116870_fix-reputation.html, www.marketingpilgrim.com/2007/10/google-reputation-management.html,
There are now specialists www.brandtitan.com/reputation-juggernaut.html in this kind of thing – proof that it’s not just me desperately trying to mend fences after a whiskey-soaked rant to a national newspaper opinion blog.