Some simple Internet advice for seniors (and others)

Todd County’s senior citizens have decided it’s important for them to learn to use computers, so as part of the process, here’s a suggestion for avoiding a pitfall.

Using computers can seem daunting enough without warnings about viruses, predators and scams that can arrive uninvited via the World Wide Web. One way to avoid headache and heartache and unwittingly turning others into victims:

When a forwarded message warns about dangerous scenarios and suggests dialing a strange number on your cell phone to summon the police, offers gift certificates at a chain restaurant, suggests that you’ll explode if you slide across your car seat while gassing up your car, or promises great fortune if you assist the sender in managing their newly found wealth, remember one thing: Go to www.snopes.com to check out the truth in the story.

Snopes considers itself “the definitive Internet reference source for urban legends, folklore, myths, rumors, and misinformation.” You can use a search box to find items of interest or browse by category. Simply type in a few words from the suspicious message. Snopes will take it from there and tell you if the original message is true, false or a mixed bag of tricks. It will also give the history of the promulgated tale.

Recently, Verna Toenyan, who is leading in the effort to improve senior services in Todd County, passed this message on. I don’t think she’ll mind that I’m using this as an example. She’s all for enlightening senior citizens. Here’s the email she received:

Hope you enjoy your lunch on Applebee’s!

My name is Bill Palmer, founder of Applebee’s. In an attempt to get our

name out to more people in the rural communities where we are not

currently located, we are offering a! $50 gift certificate to anyone who

forwards this email to 9 of their friends. Just send this email to them

and you will receive an email back with a confirmation number to claim

your gift certificate.

! !

Sincerely

Bill Palmer

Founder of Applebee’s Visit us at: www.applebees.com

Hey guys,

It really works, I tried it and got my Gift certificate confirmation

number in 3 minutes.”

I typed “Applebee’s certificate” into the Snopes search box and clicked on the first item on the search results list. “False,” proclaimed Snopes and went on to say, “The above quoted jape is just one of the many versions of a long running internet hoax that has been circulating in one form or another since 1997.”

Check Snopes before you forward any messages or respond in any way yourself. Snopes will save you from passing on false information in the guise of being helpful.

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