What Can You Believe?

It happened again yesterday. My wife received an email with a subject line that shouted (said loudly), “Do NOT press 90# on your phone!”

Briefly, here’s what the email said: If someone calls you and asks you to enter 90#, don’t do it! If you do, the other person can use your phone account to make long distance calls – and you pay the bill! According to the email, people who claimed (say it’s true) to represent AT&T and other telephone service providers have been doing this.

As evidence (proof) that this is true, the email made several statements:

  • “I dialed ‘0’ to check this out, asked the operator, who confirmed that this was correct.”
  • “I also checked Snopes.Com [more about them later]. This is true, and also applies to cell phones!”
  • “The GTE Security Department requested that I share this information with EVERYONE I KNOW.”
  • “After checking with Verizon they also said it was true, so do Not dial 90# for anyone !!!!!”

Well, I tend to be a little skeptical (questioning) – some might even say cynical (suspicious; not believing) – when I see things like this. So I went to work. And I quickly discovered that almost everything in the email is false! The only phone equipment that might be vulnerable (easily attacked) to this scam (a dishonest plan; fraud) is an old kind of business phone system – called a PBX.

This email is a good example of what we call an urban legend. An urban legend is a story that is told to many people as if it were true, but it isn’t. Unfortunately, the people who repeat urban legends believe they are true and take them very seriously – the lady who sent the email to my wife also sent it to about 60 other people! Urban legends are spread (distributed) by word of mouth (one person telling another), and emails are a popular way to do that today.

Once urban legends get established (are accepted and shared by many) – today we might say “go viral” (spread quickly using technology) – it’s very difficult to stop them. This one has been making the rounds (going from person to person) for more than 10 years! I know of a few urban legends that have been around even longer than that.

I found most of my information at a website called Snopes.com – a good place to go if you suspect (feel; think) that something you hear is an urban legend. In fact, I discovered that the #-9-0 phone scam is on their Hottest Urban Legend list – the list of urban legends that people talk about and spread most often.

~ Warren Ediger – creator of Successful English, where you can learn more about how to improve your English!

Photo from FreeFoto used under Creative Commons license.

This entry was posted in Life in the United States. Bookmark the permalink.

13 Responses to What Can You Believe?

  1. Kuong Do says:

    That’s the same in Vietnam. I waste much my money by cell phone.

  2. magda says:

    Here in Brazil there are many Urban Legends spreaded in the net, and I don’t take them seriously.

  3. Aecio Flavio Perim says:

    Great, man. The danger walk with hands together to people around the world. The more you take care the more you go near the danger. That’s internet.

  4. Pat says:

    There are a lot of this things in Brazil, the most about donations to sick people, desable people, poor people etc… The mail asks to you send it to your mail list and doing it, to each mail sended, a specific company will give some cents to the cause. My husband that has a great heart, hard believe it and he always feels angry because I don’t give a damn. Of course it is a non sense because there isn’t a system able do measure how much mail have you sended. I dont know why but sure that is a idea that some people making about a joke 🙂 🙂 As Aecio said, that’s Internet, sometimes a heaven others a hell.

  5. Ade Herdian says:

    That also happened here in my country Indonesia, I don t know why people issued such a thing, I guess they did it just for fun, or maybe that was issued by people from cellular companies to get people use their mobile very often, and let them pay more. Sometimes I think that was issued by people in the government to learn social condition of people, or just want to make people too busy so they are not paying attention to what the government is doing. But I am not sure, that’s just a thought.

  6. Talal says:

    well, hi everybody. honestly. I havent been exposed to this sort of things. but I know some relative of mine who did receive a scam that says ‘I love you, baby ‘ , so he opened it up (excitedly), and…guess what??? his entire cell phone broke down. actually I would prefer to be ripped off by money over losing my entire cell phone.
    but either one of course is not pleasant at all.

  7. Peter says:

    What can I believe? Humm??

    I believe I can fly I believe I can touch the sky:)))

    My friend you got me right at urbon legened
    Good term
    the article itself bears very imteresting hard fact that goes round world wide

    however, every country has its own urben legened peculiar to the people of that are
    by that I mean. It is somehow regional

    so what u pass down through the generations is At disparetty with my perception of urbe legeneds or something to that effect
    All I am saying is we can’t generLized the idea
    you see what I am saying my friend
    I m not trying to arise any sensetivity here
    just called it as I saw it
    peace out

  8. emiliano says:

    Sometimes I have received odd messages like these about all kind of things, “don´t do that or do it sending this message to all your friends, and
    bla bla bla”, but I don´t care about anything of them……delete, delete, delete always.
    The worst manners of all the new methods of selling everykind of things, electricity, telephone, or internet contracts are the phone calls. Usually
    at the meal hours or when you may have a little “siesta” (nap), they know your name, if you have adsl or how many phone calls are you doing
    by month. Why don´t you change your company of this or that, if you make a new contract you´ll have a big discount.
    At the first question they would ask me for I always reply that “by phone I don´t give any kind of information, don´t reply to any kind of question
    and don´t ever would agree just doing a new contract of anything”. That´s the rule always.
    It´s really very tiresome as some days you may receive two or even more calls about new contracts of buying facilities, and nobody can´t do
    antything about this matter.
    Where is the law or the top to these kind of selling practiques?. Goverments have the obligation of saving citizens rights to be respected at
    their privacity or home relax.

    Thank you Warren, you always touch the hot subjects.

  9. Peter says:

    Invasion of privecy we call it these days

    some people don’t care
    some peeople are very privet about their phone or other belongings

    I know I always come off as a silly person with a dry ,ironic sense of humour
    who in away has a spring in my step

    but this time around my perception of privecy is a hard fact
    some people go too far with that and they don’t know when to stop

    I will stop rambling

    By now

  10. emiliano says:

    Sorry Peter, but I don´t get the gist of your argument. What I think is that my freedom has borders like the freedom of the other people that sorround me, and the borders are just when I constrict the freedom of these persons or they constrict mine.
    I do not agree with agresive publicity, just the publicity that trespass these borders.
    Beside this kind of publicity are trying to cheat people that doesn´t know enough about the contracts or subjects the companies are trying to
    sell them.
    There is not enough time to think when a person is phoning you offering two dollars by one.
    I know what I´m talking about because in my other life I was working in a Bank, being there the subjects were what I have seen these years, The Crack, just selling people all kind of rubish……, as much of these products you sold as much money you got. Always I said NO inside my mind and did accordingly with my ethic, I didn´t like to cheat clients to end more money.

    Just an example of what I said above:
    In the last three of four years I have receive more than two hundred calls from Telefonica, the same number from Jazztel, Orange,
    Iberdrola, Gas, Security Companies and so on. So if you plus all the calls the result is evidently.
    Lot of people that have said yes to a contract by phone, afterward have several problems to retrieve it once they have read the small letter and lost their money and time.

    Is natural that if you want to watch the TV. or read a paper in the web by free you have to pay something in return…..Publicity, but phoning me
    home once and again it´s a way of constricting my freedom or privacity, even sometimes (not always) it´s an intent of cheat me the same that receiving all kind of phoning calls to the cellular phone or to the mail.

    Well, that´s my opinion about agresive publicity or ways of earning money doing a work, but of course everyone has the right of thinking the contrary or chosing forms of earning money to support their lifes.

    Regards Peter, always a pleasure to have a controversy as it´s the way of enlightening our lifes.
    Take care my friend.

  11. Farahnaz says:

    There are a lot of urban legend in my country, too. People send some of them to their friends/ relatives as a message, especially with a statement at the end of the message: “If you don’t send it to your friends, you will have a bad event/ accident very soon, but if you send it to your friends, you will receive a good news”.
    Thanks’ Warren, that’s essential information.

  12. Tania says:

    Hi! An urban legend is a legend, you can believe it or not. Delete, delete like Emiliano said.
    But what can we do with the hackers when we can lose a lot of money? An American police detective , expert in IT, came to Rmania regarding the Romanian hackers net.
    He said: The hackers are not criminals but they must be punished for their acts. And I agree with him.

  13. hossein says:

    urban legend, there is in every country but with different shapes and meanings;similar in iran we have a story that fraud pastor

Comments are closed.