Thursday, January 27, 2011

Rumors? On the Internet? Say it Ain't So!

It's been said many times, many ways. But I'm not talking about Merry Christmas. I'm talking about the Internet. Sure, we all know it's a great way to communicate with others over distance, conveying messages, ideas, and knowledge at speed. There's millions of wonderful things to be found, no I'm not talking about porn, but you can find that too, and no doubt some of it's wonderful. However, there is also a great lot of false nonsense. Someone will take a rumor they heard somewhere, and circulate it around as a gospel truth. If it's accompanied by blustery language designed to rile the reader, all the better.
I, along with everyone else, gets these emails from time to time. The ones that say things like "The ACLU wants to ban crosses for headstones in military cemetaries!!" or "The Obamas hate Christmas!" or even the one from this morning that if you sell your house in 2013 or after there is a 3.8% "sales tax" that will be imposed and that this is "hidden" in the health care reform act. The last item was from this morning, was a forward, and the person I got it from actually left intact a comment from the previous recipient "Don't know if this is true. click the link below for further explanation." Really? All clicking the link did (as in most of these emails) was take me to a site that was aligned with the general opinion of the rumor. 

When I get these notes, I go a step further. Rather than blindly becoming horrified & outraged at the percieved misdeed of whoever the target happens to be, I fact check. There are several wonderful sites that can help with this endeavor, though this morning I only had time to visit one of them. Upon determining the veracity of the email, I then copy the link, hit 'reply to all' and send it off. I believe rather firmly this may be why I don't get as many of these emails as I used to- perhaps people don't like the rumor mill being debunked.
From my experience, the main hallmark of spotting a rumor like this in your inbox is blustery language that is designed to raise your moral outrage. "How dare they!" the author wants you to think. All I usually think is "how dare you, author of this email!" Another big way to spot a fake, the author will make it sound like there's a huge conspiracy afoot and by sending this email you will help to rail against it.
This morning's offering, as stated, involves a 3.8% tax that will go into effect in 2013. The email bills this as a real estate sales tax, that someone, no matter their income level, will have to pay if they sell a house, because they're "out to screw the retiring generation who often downsize their homes." A quick check at does much to dissuade that theory. The 3.8% tax is in fact a Medicare tax that will be instituted on Capital Gains earnings, or investment income, only if certain income levels are in place. (Read the full entry here:
Stay wary friends, and, if you believe everything that comes into your inbox, well, I'm sure there's a Nigerian Banking Scam out there with your name on it!