Monday, February 28, 2011

My Grandparents: Scam Detectives

So my grandparents, in their 80s, got a computer recently and I made the mistake of giving them my email address. To them, computers are a brave new terrifying world, and they are suddenly the police of the Internet, forwarding me every email they get about every scam, trick and swindle that lands in their inbox.

Only thing is, most of the emails they're getting are either not really a problem, or they were a huge problem...back in 2002 when the emails first went around. I'm not sure what kind of scam historian keeps pushing these things out to octogenarians, but I hope they cool it soon. My first thought is to say "Grandpa, before you forward me the email, do a search on Snopes to see if it's really a problem," but I'm worried that his head would explode.

That's when I thought of Grammarly - since I've still got my account going. I wondered if they'd be able to use it to calm themselves and stop hyperventilating (I just assume they're doing that) every time someone sends an email about the Melissa virus or whatever.

So, I took the most recent email they sent me, with the subject of "Computer virus going around!!!" Here's a snippet:

Hi All,

I checked with Norton Anti-Virus, and they are gearing up for this virus! I checked Snopes, and it is for real. Get this E-mail message sent around to all your contacts ASAP. PLEASE FORWARD THIS WARNING AMONG YOUR FRIENDS, FAMILY AND CONTACTS!

You should be alert during the next few days. Do not open any message with an attachment entitled 'POSTCARD FROM HALLMARK, 'regardless of who sent it to you. It is a virus which opens A POSTCARD IMAGE, which 'burns' the whole hard disc C drive of your computer.

The thing is, I remember this Postcard virus, and it's totally real - but it was a big deal back in '07, and started circulating as this type of email in '08. My grandparents sent it to me in 2010, bless their hearts. I plugged the above text into Grammarly's tool to see what the plagiarism detector would bring back.

First Result (from Joe Levi): A calm blog post announcing that this email is a hoax and telling people not to freak out.

Second Result (from Truth or Fiction): A Snopes-like site, also warning that this virus is no longer a big concern.

Third Result (from Yahoo! Answers): The OP asks, the answers are all validation that they shouldn't worry.

So it turns out Grammarly could be a useful tool for helping my grandparents separate the wheat from the chaff when it comes to email scam alerts. Something to have in the hip pocket if they continue to send me stuff like that. Now if I can just get them to stop forwarding me Powerpoint presentations about birds from my crazy great aunt, I'll be all set.


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