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Reader Beware: Web, E-mail Host Errors, Hoaxes
By Crystel Bailey
MISSISSIPPI STATE -- Internet users should not be fooled by false information on the World Wide Web and e-mail if they keep a few tips in mind.
Most people who use the Internet have probably come across scams or rumors when searching the Web or checking their e-mail. Some hoaxes have caused problems when people took them seriously.
"The best way to know if information is true is to determine the reliability of the source," said Gary Wingenbach, assistant professor for Agriculture Information Science and Education at Mississippi State University.
Searching reliable sites and checking for references are the best ways for getting accurate information from the Web. Wingenbach said the most reliable sites are those with domain name extensions for governmental agencies (.gov), and institutes of higher learning (edu.).
"Extensions such as .org (organizations) and .com (commercial) are sometimes biased because they want you to donate money or think their product is the best," he said.
Wingenbach suggested searching many different kinds of sites, such as universities or hospitals, to make sure information is correct.
Besides having a broad search, Wingenbach said to look for references on Web sites.
"You must be able to cite information. Scroll down to the bottom of the page to see if the site gives any references. If it doesn't, do not consider it credible or reliable," he said.
Reference information should include a United States mailing address, telephone number, contact person and a date.
"Remember that anyone can create a Web site that looks reliable but may be only a scam. Check out the information if they give a reference," he said.
E-mail hoaxes are common, and they may be more difficult to track because a sender can delete his or her address from the e-mail.
"When I am e-mailed a virus warning, I always check out the accuracy of the warning at the U.S. Department of Energy's Computer Incident Advisory Capability site: http://ciac.llnl.gov/ciac/CIACHoaxes.html," Wingenbach said.
"If you've received what looks like a scam rather than a hoax, then check it out at http://www.scambusters.org," he said.
While the World Wide Web and e-mails are targets for misinformation, Wingenbach said to be aware of newsgroup scams, rumors and hoaxes as well.
Contact: Dr. Gary Wingenbach, (662) 325-3326