Why Hoax Emails Refuse To Die


A rather persistent hoax has been floating around blogs, Facebook, and Twitter recently.

The "warning" alleges that a company put a flier through your letterbox claiming that they were unable to deliver a parcel - and that you need to contact them on 0906 6611911. Apparently this will immediately charge your phone £315.

Before we go any further, this "warning" is a hoax. The original scam was closed in 2005!

So, why is this propagating now? One reason that I can find is that this misinformation is being spread by Surrey Police.

Surrey Police Hoax Email

When people normally receive a chain email they - I hope - do a little bit of research before spreading it to their address book or social network. But when it comes from a highly trusted source like the police, most people would assume that it's a legitimate source of information.

That said, there are a few "howlers" in this email that should cause anyone to think twice (and I don't mean the use of Comic Sans!).

Firstly, the CrimeStoppers URL - http://www.crimestoppers-uk.org/crime-prevention/helping-prevent-crime/scams/postal-delivery-scam - doesn't work! Clicking on it redirects you to the front page of the website. There's a tiny box on there about the scam.
CrimeStoppers Hoax Email
That redirects to http://www.crimestoppers-uk.org/fraud/types-of-fraud/common-scams/postal-scam-email-from-parcel-delivery-service-65455465 - which confirms it's a hoax.

It would be really good if CrimeStoppers could make the hoax warning more prominent on that page.

Secondly, if the police, Trading Standards, and the Post Office all know about this scam - why haven't they simply shut the number down?

Finally, it's always worth double-checking, no matter what the providence. A quick Google for 0906 611911 shows hundreds of reputable sites (and the Daily Mail) showing that this is a hoax.

From the perspective of memetics, it's interesting to see how a highly reputable source can be used for spreading the "infection" of a false meme.

Hopefully, Surrey Police will publish a retraction.

4 thoughts on “Why Hoax Emails Refuse To Die

  1. Hi Terence,

    Just to add to your places to check if any premium rate (090xxx or premium SMS) service is legit is http://www.phonepayplus.org.uk/ who is regulator for this industry.

    They have various lists of scams on their site and have the legal powers to shut services down immediately and investigate/ fine perpetrators. People can also call them if you have any suspicions about a service as well.

    Chris

    1. Thank you Terence for drawing this to our attention.

      The message was put out in good faith by one of our neighbourhood teams. As you rightly point out, this is an old hoax, and it is disappointing that the officers did not carry spot that (a quick internet search would have sufficed) before sending it on.

      The Sergeant for the team has been informed and will be speaking to his officers.

      We will also be emailing all staff to remind them to check information of this kind before passing it on to the public.

  2. We've just had an email come through via a Detective Inspector at West Midlands Police warning of the exact same thing. It was only because I'd had an email from Trading Standards saying it was a hoax that alarm bells went off.

    It amazes me that people (especially trained police officers) would pass this information on without checking first.

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