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Panic Mail

Scenario: an email arrives from a complete stranger claiming there's a video of you online and you'll be in trouble. What do you do?

Well, don't panic! It might not be real. But surely you should at least look at it to check it out? NO! Don't! The links are not what they seem, and if you are duped into following a link just because some joker has managed to scare you, you could be going to anywhere, not necessarily what the link appears to be.

Let me show you an example...

----- Original Message -----
[someone you don't know]
[your email address]
Sent: Monday, August 27, 2007 7:15 PM
Subject: sheesh man, what are you thinkin

If your mom sees this she this video of you she is gonna freak. go look at it...

Incidentally, I have adjusted this to make it generic and tamed it so the address goes to somewhere safe, while keeping the principle the same. Don't click on the link, but hover your mouse over it and see what comes up in the status bar. To make really sure, right-click on the link and look at "properties". See, it doesn't go to Youtube! Therefore the link is faked-up, so you can stop worrying.

Here's another one...

----- Original Message -----
[another stranger]
[your address, probably stolen from a list]
Sent: Sunday, August 26, 2007 7:50 PM
Subject: HAHAHAHAHAHA, man your insane!

Man you have got to tell me where you picked her up. I saw this on the web, it has to be you. here is the link I got

Even if you think the lifestyle fits you, remember that this is a hoax on two counts so far: 1. The link is not what it seems, and 2. It's from someone who you don't know personally yet who addresses you as if they are on familiar terms.

Let's put that to the test. We'll reply...

From: Zyra
Sent: Soon after receipt of message

Would you care to explain further, as I believe you may be talking about someone else?


----- Original Message -----
From: Mail Delivery System
Subject: Mail delivery failed: returning message to sender

This message was created automatically by mail delivery software.

A message that you sent could not be delivered to one or more of its recipients. This is a permanent error. The following address(es) failed:
SMTP error from remote mail server after RCPT TO:
host etc etc [numbers]: 550-"The recipient cannot be verified. Please check all recipients of this 550 message to verify they are valid."

Bounced! Well that's quite conclusive really, as the sender was not real. It was a faked-up address, spoofed by spam senders.

Here are a few more examples of the same kind of scary messages...

Subject: where did you hide that camera?

LMAO, I cant believe you put this video online. Everyone can see your face there. LOL check it out yourself

That one was from some silly Yahoo address in Brazil. The next one is from Taiwan...

----- Original Message -----
[silly yahoo address]
[correspondence address]
Sent: Sunday, August 26, 2007 9:58 PM

Subject: where did you hide that camera?

If your mom sees this she this video of you she is gonna freak. see for yourself...

Of course it doesn't make any difference where the messages are from, nor do the messages depend on whether your folks are still alive. The messages are spam, sent out randomly, presumably hoping to scare you into taking them seriously enough to click on the link.

----- Original Message -----
[faked up address at an ISP]
[address harvested from Alexa]
Sent: Sunday, August 26, 2007 7:13 PM
Subject: Who is that your with? lol

You need to take this offline, it is in everyones email. :-( here is the link I got

Is this some kind of Holy War against people who go to wild parties and are rash enough to put videos of themselves online?

And anyway, why am I saying "Don't follow the links!"? You might be thinking "Why shouldn't I watch that alleged video at Youtube?". The answer is: Those are not links to Youtube! Out of the dozens of spam messages like this which I have received, the links go to http:// followed by four numbers with dots inbetween. These could be Anything. There's no need to follow the links, because we already know the senders are up to no good.

Although the destinations could be anything, here's my own theory of what happens if you follow them: You end up at a website which inserts Spyware into your computer. Well, it might not be that. It might just be a scam site which tries to fool you into entering your bank details into a form, or it might be pornographic stuff that leaves incriminating evidence in your computer. Honestly, I'd not risk it. Come on, if a stranger came up to you in the street and said "You swine! You baked this cake and it tastes awful! Here, try some and see what I mean!", would you taste it?! No? What, you might get poisoned? Too smart to fall for that? Well then don't follow bogus links on spam e-mails!

If you have already followed a link on a panic mail, you may be interested to see the antivirus software, anti spyware, and virus prevention measures to see about cleaning your computer!

Meanwhile, the example scary messages on this page are like stuffed fierce animals which still look realistic but have been made safe. You can test the links on them by:

1. Hovering the mouse over the link and see what comes up in the status bar. If you have no status bar, see How To Get Browser Bars

2. Right-clicking on the links and checking "properties". This reveals the actual contents of the link, in contrast to what the link looks like.

The links on the stuffed versions go to panicmail2.htm which is an explanatory page. In contrast, the links in various panic mail you might receive could go to anywhere, so it might be best to avoid them.

Also see fake messages from banks, congratulations lottery scam, and the Rogues Gallery of suspicious emails

----- Original Message -----
[military address]
[correspondence address]
Sent: Monday, August 27, 2007 10:37 PM
Subject: OMG, what are you thinking

If your dad see this video you made, he is gonna kill you. see for yourself...


----- Original Message -----
[fake address]
LinkShare mailing list address
Sent: Monday, August 27, 2007 7:57 PM
Subject: Where did you take that?

this i not good. If this video gets to her husband your both dead. here is the link I got

Death threats, eh? Evidently the relationships were not that good to start with?

Here's another recycled scam panic-mail...

Attachment: something.ZIP

----- Original Message -----
From: Arogues
Rogues Gallery
Sent: Wednesday, April 04, 2012 12:34 PM
Subject: They killed your privacy man, your photo is all over facebook! NAKED!
Hello <faked-up address here>,

But I really need to ask you - is it you at this picture in attachment? I can't tell you where I got this picture, it doesn't actually matter... The question is is it really you???.

Note: Anything Facebook is bad news. They killed your privacy anyway, if you have let them have any of your info. The fact that scamsters send stupid messages like this is a secondary issue. Also note that a photo is not sent .zip , and such things are not photos, but viruses. Don't open the attachment, and avoid Facebook like the plague. In some ways Facebook is worse than the plague. The widespread death due to The Plague resulted in some improved social reforms, whereas Facebook has nothing to recommend it.

Here's another scam message...

----- Original Message -----
From: Isla
Sent: 11/06/2011 15:31
Personal Address
Subject: Hi! I have found useful info for you...

Isla wrote:
I'm put info about you on my private website

Very truly yours,


Well, if someone puts info about you onto their private website, it may be worth checking to see if it's accurate. However, this message is not what it claims to be. It's purely a scam to get you to click on the link, which turns out to be a site advertising pills of various types. I suggest that if dishonesty has been used in the advertising, it could be that the product might also be fake. There are problems with fake drugs, so best avoided. There is another problem, though, which is that the linked site (presumably hacked) has knowledge of the links to it, and therefore could confirm your e-mail address from a click. In such cases, it may help to substitute your e-mail with such things as abuse@yahoo.com etc.

Here's another threatening message...

From: ups-shipping-agency@ups.com
Subject: You pig!
Attachment: DCIM.zip (62.6Kb)
05/07/2012 05:36, package update MyUps wrote:

You should be stoping ignoring me or i will send this photos to your spouse!!!

Ostensibly a message from someone who regards you as a pig, and threatening you with the sending of a photo. But wait. Firstly, anyone making such a threat is likely to carry it out regardless nomatter what you do. Also, don't assume it's actually a photo. (A clue is in the fact that it's a ZIP file. Photos are often .jpg which is already pre-compressed, so there's no point in it being Zipped as well). My suggestion is that it's a virus, and therefore you shouldn't open it. Besides, it's hardly likely to have come from UPS, is it?!

Also see Message from the FBI!? It's not from the FBI, of course. It's from some Nigeria-scamsters!

Also, the BBB Complaint message is a hoax, and it's not sent by the BBB Better Business Bureau.

Hallmark Virus Chainletter causes panic and contains disinformation, even though there is such as thing as the Hallmark Virus

Also see How to Avoid such problems and How to defend your e-mail address