Last Week’s Blog Post asking that readers Be Smarter about phishing emails was read thousands of times, but apparently not by one long-time reader who sent me (yes, he sent it, not malware) an email with the subject, “O. M. G. -----The Darwin Awards are out!”
Just by the subject line I knew there was a 99.999 percent chance that it was fake.
Not only did he not reflect on the improbability of an annual “awards” summary coming out in July, rather than January or February, but what he sent was so old, it ended with the “winner” being the guy who strapped a JATO rocket to his car, which after ignition was found as “a pile of smoldering metal embedded in the side of a cliff.”
It concluded, “You couldn’t make this stuff up, could you?” Well most people couldn’t, but someone certainly did!
Because about 99.999 percent of you know that’s not just a made-up urban legend, but a very old one.
How Old? The Snopes write-up is more than 20 years old, but even at that point it was already old: they included a couple of versions of the story from 1995, and note that several of their readers remembered hearing versions of the story in the early 1960s.
That’s right: well over a half-century old.
It’s such a well-known urban legend that even Wikipedia has a page on it. It’s such a well-known urban legend that it was the very first myth tested by The Mythbusters TV show, first airing January 2003 — and they revisited it twice more over the years to give it every possible chance!
There are so many improbable clues about this one that it’s surprising that anyone who hadn’t seen it before wouldn’t be suspicious enough that they wouldn’t do the simplest of Google searches before sending it to the guy that publishes something called This is True.
As usual, it comes down to the need to think.
Related Good Reading: from Wired magazine published in August 2000, one possible origin of the myth: Heard the One About the Rocket Car? (First two words of the subhead: “Hasn’t everyone?” Nope! There was this one guy….) Warning: it’s LONG!
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