The latest variant in one of the longest running hoaxes to hit the Internet has managed to acquire a degree of viral success, highlighting that many social media users are still willing to circulate obvious hoaxes.
Most people who use email will be very much aware of the classic “Bill Gates is sharing his fortune” range of hoaxes that claimed forwarding an email would result in Microsoft paying you money depending on how many friends you sent it to. Those classic hoaxes have been circulating for over 15 years now, and are regarded as one of the most successful hoaxes ever to hit email inboxes.
And it seems that modern social networking variants are enjoying a similar success as their predecessors, judging by a photoshopped image of Bill Gates that is currently being shared across Facebook by thousands of gullible users. The image shows Mr. Gates, co-founder of Microsoft, holding a sign asserting that sharing the image across Facebook will bank you a cool $5000.
Of course the image has been manipulated – and not only the sign but also some blurred, unsafe-for-work items digitally placed in the background – yet this has not stopped many passing the image along to their friends.
So the real question is :- are users passing along this image because they’ve had their head in the sand and genuinely believe they’re going to inherit thousands of dollars for sharing an image? Or – perhaps more likely – is it because they are using the infuriating yet timeless philosophy of ”it’s probably fake, but better safe than sorry”
We try to discourage social media users – as best we can – from circulating hoaxes, even if they appear harmless, no matter what the justification. Hoaxes like this infamous Bill Gates hoax serve as nothing other than a complete waste of time, and it wouldn’t be so bad if it was only the person who fell for it who was wasting their time – but these hoaxes require you pass them along to your friends and waste their time as well.
Not only that but such rumours can serve to help more serious scams. Viral content, no matter whether it is true or false, can be exploited by scammers. When content goes viral scammers know that plenty of social media users will be interested in certain information, such as, in this case, how to verify their details and how to claim their money. Using this as bait, scammers can lead thousands of social media users into their traps, which can lead to identity fraud or malware infections.
And if that doesn’t hit home, then know that sharing this nonsense also means you’ll be doing your little bit to plague social networking sites with false information, devaluing not only your own experience on the site but also everyone else that uses it as well.
Moral of the story – don’t circulate false rumours just in case they might be true. Take a look at our previous blog post that outlines some important reasons why you should never circulate false information on the Internet.