community

50 PLACES OF A LIFETIME
Get our picks for must-see destinations.

TOURISM FORUM
Sound off on tourism’s pros and cons.

MESSAGE BOARDS
Forum for travel tips and questions

TRAVEL TOOLBOX
Links for savvy travelers

TRAVEL ADVISORIES
Weather, road conditions, news, local events, more

ELECTRONIC EXPLORER
TRAVELER goes site-seeing.

FAMILY TRAVEL
Hints and links

NGS PUBLICATIONS INDEX
Search our complete TRAVELER index.

NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC EXPEDITIONS
Travel with our experts.

REQUEST ADVERTISER INFO

 
 
 
 
 

Electronic Traveler

| Learn more |

FROM THE PRINT EDITION

Have you heard? The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration is warning travelers about rings of thieves who target travelers with laptop computers at airport x-ray machines....Walt Disney, Jr., is giving away trips to Disney World if you help test Bill Gates’s new e-mail tracking system by forwarding an e-mail message....Twentieth Century Fox is turning one of Thailand’s most beautiful beaches into a football field for Leonardo DiCaprio’s upcoming film, The Beach....Business travelers around the world are waking up in a tub of ice with one less kidney after being drugged at hotel bars by organ harvesters.

Email

Illustration by William Duke

The truth? The FAA never issued the laptop warning; you’re not getting a free trip to Disney World; DiCaprio and crew didn’t wreak environmental destruction on the Thai island; and an international crime ring doesn’t want your kidneys. These tales of winning and woe are examples of e-mail hoaxes, scams, or simple misinformation, widely disseminated thanks to the Internet.

While many people take things they read in tabloids with a grain of salt, many don’t have the same skepticism for their e-mail. It’s easy to believe information that comes right to your personal e-mail box, particularly when it’s been forwarded by friends with your best interests at heart. And it’s easy to see how the misinformation can spread rapidly as friends tell their friends with one hit of the “Forward” button. Forwarding any e-mail message that originates from an unknown source, even if it comes to you via a friend, could come back to haunt you. According to Philip McKee, coordinator of the Internet Fraud Watch Project at the National Consumers League, “It’s very common to use chain letters...to get a list of people that can be used as recipients of unsolicited e-mail.” Spammers can capture your e-mail address and you could start receiving junk e-mail, called spam, that often advertises get-rich-quick schemes and pornographic offers.

A number of nonprofit groups, government agencies, and privacy watchdogs are helping police the unregulated information superhighway by posting lists of e-mail hoaxes, virus scams, and spammers. Consult the URLs listed here.

If you’re already receiving spam, here’s how to fight back:

• Turn on your filters, which come with many e-mail programs and scan incoming e-mail for some of spam’s trademarks, like numerous exclamation points.

• Inform your Internet service provider, which can track junk mail clogging its system and stop the spammer. Also, Americans can complain directly to the U.S. Federal Trade Commission (e-mail: uce@ftc.gov ).

• Never reply to spam. Some junk e-mail comes with a polite directive: “If you don’t wish to receive any more e-mail, click on the reply button and ask to be removed.” That’s the fastest way to confirm your address with the spammer, who may sell your address to someone else.

• The Internet is an easy way for anyone to get a point across fast and free, be it for malicious reasons, to make a quick buck, or simply to play a practical joke. Remember, there’s a reason it’s called virtual reality.

nationalgeographic.com nationalgeographic.com ngtraveler