The hallmark of almost every Internet hoax is that they tell you to forward the letter to as many people as possible. If you ever see such a message, you can be sure that it is a hoax.
Some of the hoaxes are harmful. For example, there is one attacking "Hanoi Jane" Fonda. It contains supposed quotes from famous prisoners of war who say they saw Jane Fonda participate in atrocities. However, the quotes are all fake. The real people exist but they did not say those things nor did they see Jane Fonda doing the things they supposedly saw.
Here are a few famous hoaxes:
The Dying Child who wants to get into the Guinness Book of World Records for collecting the most business cards. (Hint: 11 years have passed and the dying child is still alive. Somehow, the ornery critter just cannot be killed off.)
The waitress who charged $250 to a credit card for a cookie recipe, when you thought she was only charging $2.50.
The commencement speech by famous author Kurt Vonnegut where he repeatedly advises to use sunscreen.
Bill Gates and Walt Disney will give you $5,000 for forwarding this e-mail message.
Under a bill pending before Congress, the FCC is going to charge you for Internet access. You must write a letter to your Congressman right away!
Canadian Government Intervenes to Stop Sex on the Net. Sexual Virtual Reality equipment which allows people to have sex with each other without meeting physically has been confiscated by Canada.
FBI covers up the fact that a Navy Missile shot down TWA Flight 800.
Knocked unconscious by knock-out drugs, the victim woke up in a bathtub filled with ice and found a note saying that his kidneys had been kidnapped.
Top Corporate official was murdered after sending his last e-mail message to you. What secret coded information did it contain?
Virus Warnings - The most common hoax of all. A new virus will steal your credit card numbers. Better warn all your friends before it is too late
These are just a few of the common hoaxes. I have received in some form all of these within the past year, except for the one about a corporate official who was murdered just after sending me his last e-mail message.
To my credit, I never fell for any of them, but my friends who forwarded them to me certainly did.
There are many sites on the net which keep track of these hoaxes. Here are a few of them: