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Ever received one of those pathetic scaremongering e-mails from an apparently well-meaning colleague and told them the story is an old hoax, only to get a touchy “can’t be too careful” response? Ever got forwarded the same one again months later, despite your e-mail to the whole department about Snopes? Ever chickened out and quietly hit delete because you didn’t want to bruise the sender’s ego?

If so, Dollymix‘s warning from Shinykatie about crime e-mail forwards will make you chuckle. She also did a less jokey post about the problem in March, focussing on the very misleading “Through a Rapist’s Eyes” piece that Tigtog from Hoyden About Town very thoroughly critiqued (and is also well worth a look).

These hoax e-mails are little more than mealy-mouthed insults to women’s intelligence. They add to society’s cosy celebration of female vulnerability and waste the time of those who genuinely want to change things. When I had the misfortune to receive several within a short space of time a few years ago, I actually set up an e-mail address purely for the purpose of anonymously flagging up such warnings as potential crap, without having to agonise over whether my bursting of the togetherness-through-fear bubble would cause offence. However, it never really caught on and, seeing as I quite like the idea of orchestrating a reactionary chain of scarestory spoiling to end the chain of scarestories, I’d like to share it with F-word readers to cut, paste, edit and use as a mythbusting tool:

Dear Friend,

You have been sent this message for one of 2 reasons:

1. You recently forwarded or received an e-mail alerting people to a potential danger and, as I’m sure the message was sent in good faith, I want to assure you that the story is untrue or

2. You are part of an internet community that is likely to be concerned about some of the issues that dominate scare stories and I’d like you to join me in putting a stop to the scaremongering

There is a quick, simple and free way of finding out if the story you’ve been forwarded is true or a hoax.

Just go to:

http://www.snopes.com

and then type a key word from the story into a search.

Some recent examples of scare stories include:

* Warnings about robbers/attackers who approach women in car parks, ask them what perfume they wear and then offer them a scent to sniff which is said in the e-mail to be a substance that makes the sniffer lose consciousness

http://www.snopes.com/crime/warnings/perfume.asp

* Variations of the urban myth about a killer lurking in the backseat of a woman’s car

http://www.snopes.com/horrors/madmen/backseat.asp

* Tales of a drug called Progesterex that is apparently being used by date rapists to sterilize victims

http://www.snopes.com/toxins/progest.htm

* The myth that Tampon manufacturers use asbestos in their products to promote bleeding

http://www.snopes.com/toxins/tampon.htm

* There are also various e-mails containing potentially dangerous generalisations on how to avoid being raped

http://www.snopes.com/inboxer/outrage/rape.htm

Obviously, e-mail is a potentially good way of keeping friends and colleagues up to date on issues like personal safety but for this to truly work, we all need to check whether e-mail warnings stem from hoaxes before taking the further action of forwarding them on.

Have you found this e-mail useful? If so, please consider keeping it and then forwarding it whenever you receive an e-mail that looks like a potential hoax.

Thanks for reading this,

A Scarestory Spoiler