Tetherd Cow Ahead Critical Thinking 101: Lesson #1

Over the last few weeks three people with whom I have some acquaintance have fallen for an internet scam of the ‘Send This email to 20 People You Know and We’ll Give You Something Really Valuable Entirely for Free’ variety.

What is most perplexing is that these are all people who I would consider intelligent, savvy folk under normal circumstances, and who all have at least a modicum of internet experience.

I just can’t comprehend why they, and so many others, fall for these blatantly obvious swindles.

OK, as a Tetherd Cow Ahead Public Service I’m going to inscribe an internet truism here. Got a felt pen? Write it on your mouse-mat:

★ If someone offers you something of material value for free in an email, IT IS A SCAM.

There is no exception to this rule. I have yet to hear of a single instance of someone being offered a freebie of any value and actually getting it.

The kinds of emails we’re talking about come in a variety of different flavours, but they’re basically riffs on the same theme. Sony is the latest victim of this hoax and they have even taken the fairly extreme measures of posting a warning on their site, and an example of the offending email. Let me reproduce it for you here:

Subject: FW: PSP GIVEAWAY!!!
Importance: High

Dear all

Sony is giving away PSP consoles “FREE”!! Sony is trying word-of-mouth advertising to introduce its products. And the reward you receive for advertising for them is a PSP free of cost!

To receive your free PSP all you need to do is send this email out to 20 people for a PSP value pack(see attached picture).

Within 2 weeks you will receive a free PSP! (They contact you via your email address).

What makes this so compelling? I don’t know about you, but when I read this kind of thing, my critical thinking mechanism takes less than an attosecond to file it under Hogwash.

Nevertheless, this phenomenon intrigues me, so here’s the deal: In an effort to understand what kind of person falls for these things I’m going to give a two-week all-expenses paid holiday, flying First Class to Vatulele to the first Cow reader who comments on this post.

Now. Hands up who believed me, even for an instant. (Put your hand down Jam, you’re just being silly).

See? Just because it’s written in proper words on the internet doesn’t mean it’s the truth.

BTW, if anyone from Sony is reading this, I didn’t get my Playstation yet.