I recently received an e-mail message from a friend of mine who prefers the sadistic lifestyle that is the GW women’s crew team (no, not Audrey Molina; she is making her way in the corporate world by scooping ice cream at Ben & Jerry’s up in Georgetown. Go visit her sometime. She’d love to see you).
Anyway, this member of the crew team – I’ll call her “Eva” – sent me an e-mail. Actually, she didn’t write a single thing in that e-mail except my e-mail address. She merely sent me a forwarded message with a million other people’s e-mail addresses already in it. You know the kind I’m talking about – the kind that takes several minutes to scroll through before you find the usually short and pointless message.
It usually also tells you to immediately forward the message to 10, 15 or 348 other people, lest you be cursed forever by the e-mail gods.
I imagine this e-mail has made its way through the GW community, regardless of CIRC’s policy on forwarded messages. (For the record, I did not forward the e-mail. I followed CIRC’s instructions and deleted it, at the risk of angering the e-mail gods).
Here is what the e-mail said:
“Hello Disney fans and thank you for signing up for Bill Gates’ Beta E-mail Tracking. My name is Walt Disney Jr.
“Here at Disney, we are working with Microsoft, which has just compiled an e-mail tracing program that tracks everyone to whom this message is forwarded. It does this through a unique IP (Internet Protocol) address log book database. We are experimenting with this and need your help.
“Forward this to everyone you know and if it reaches 13,000 people, 1,300 of the people on the list will receive $5,000 and the rest will receive a free trip for two to Disney World for one week during the summer of 1999 at our expense. Enjoy.
“Note: Duplicate entries will not be counted. You will be notified by e-mail with further instructions once this e-mail has reached 13,000 people.
“Your friends, Walt Disney Jr., Disney, Bill Gates & The Microsoft Development Team.”
I talked with Gordon Lingley in Microsoft’s corporate public relations department. For all those hoping the e-mail was true, sorry to burst your bubble.
“It’s a new twist on an old hoax,” Lingley said.
It seems when Windows ’98 was about to be released, another e-mail was being forwarded around, supposedly from Microsoft, promising $1,000 to the first 1,000 people to buy a copy of the software.
Lingley also told me the “Beta E-mail Tracking” program is another figment of someone’s imagination.
As for Bill Gates sitting around with his pals on the “Development Team” brainstorming ideas – that’s about as likely as Bill Clinton hanging around with White House interns. Well, maybe that was a bad example, but Gates definitely did not send out that e-mail, nor did anyone else at Microsoft.
“It’s just something big companies face pretty often,” Lingley said.
The folks at Disney were equally unamused by the fake message.
“It’s a hoax. H-O-A-X,” said Claudia Peters, director of corporate communication at Disney.
She repeated the fact that it was all a hoax many, many, many times. I guess she wanted to make sure I got the message.
And, she said, “there is no Walt Disney Jr.”
J. Bradley Reese, director of CIRC, said such e-mail hoaxes are a fairly regular occurrence, with dozens of them going around at any one time.
“People who forward the e-mails usually do so in good faith,” Reese said. However, even though their intentions are good, the e-mails “use somebody else’s resources for your own prank.”
Reese also laughed when I mentioned the Beta E-mail Tracking program.
“I don’t think so,” he said authoritatively.
Reese recommends logging on to www.datafellows.fi/news/hoax.htm to find out more about the plethora of e-mail hoaxes surfing cyberspace so you are not made to look like a cyberfool.
When I told the person who sent me the e-mail – the semi-anonymous “Eva” – that it was all a hoax, she was not fazed by the lie.
“So, I am a gimp,” she said. “I knew it was a scam, but I had nothing better to do than send it and hope it wasn’t.”
This sort of thing is not new. Most people have been on campus only a few weeks and already have received urgent e-mails about the “Good Times” virus, which will erase your hard drive, eat your disks and give you acne; a little boy with a fatal disease who wants to receive as many e-mails as he can while still alive; and the “secret” recipe to Mrs. Field’s chocolate chip cookies from a person who unwittingly paid hundreds of dollars for it and is now exacting revenge on the company.
All sound plausible. All are false.
So the moral of this story is, if you receive an e-mail that sounds too good to be true, just delete the dumb thing.
The writer is associate editor of The GW Hatchet.
This article appeared in the September 3, 1998 issue of the Hatchet.