Separating Fact from Fiction: Examining Rumors and Urban Legends

Reviewed Jun 10, 2015

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Summary

  • Think before you believe.
  • Stay skeptical and check the source.
  • Look for confirmation by a second, unrelated news source.
  • Be e-mail savvy.

On the Internet, rumors, hoaxes and urban legends have become powerful sources of public misinformation. A plea for money, a tragic story, a chain letter or a frightening news report are spread easily via email.
 
As these stories become increasingly sophisticated, we must all become equally wary. How can you tell fact from fiction? Where should you go for accurate information? What stories are already circulating? Here’s how to protect yourself from rumors, hoaxes and urban legends.
 
Stay skeptical and check the source

You can’t believe everything you hear. Reputable news sources will announce when a story is “unconfirmed” or if accusations are “alleged.” These words are important signals, indicating that the facts aren’t fully known.
 
If you hear a rumor, check with a professional news source and look for a corroborating report. Log onto a government or major news website, such as CNN or MSNBC, for the latest information. Be particularly skeptical of information you receive via email.
 
When reviewing a story, ask:
  • Where did the story come from?
  • Who was the initial source?
  • Did this person get the information from someone else?

When a story’s origins are murky, look for confirmation by a second, unrelated news source.

If you still aren’t sure what to believe, the Constitutional Rights Foundation provides a helpful guide to fact-checking in the Information Age at www.crf-usa.org/war-in-iraq/media-in-times-of-crisis.html.

Be email savvy

Internet users can help stop chain letters, hoaxes and rumors by refusing to forward copies. Delete unconfirmed stories received via email or send the message to your computer security manager. Many email hoaxes contain a heartbreaking tale followed by a plea for financial help. Others inspire panic. If you can’t confirm the information using an outside source, stay skeptical—and don’t forward the email to others.
 
When you hear an unverified story, think before you believe. Rumors and urban legends have always been present (in our culture and in our email), but these stories are becoming increasingly powerful. Seek official or professional confirmation before you accept any rumor as fact. You may find that skepticism is an antidote to fear.
 
Resources
 
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
 
Constitutional Rights Foundation
By Lauren Greenwood de Beer

Summary

  • Think before you believe.
  • Stay skeptical and check the source.
  • Look for confirmation by a second, unrelated news source.
  • Be e-mail savvy.

On the Internet, rumors, hoaxes and urban legends have become powerful sources of public misinformation. A plea for money, a tragic story, a chain letter or a frightening news report are spread easily via email.
 
As these stories become increasingly sophisticated, we must all become equally wary. How can you tell fact from fiction? Where should you go for accurate information? What stories are already circulating? Here’s how to protect yourself from rumors, hoaxes and urban legends.
 
Stay skeptical and check the source

You can’t believe everything you hear. Reputable news sources will announce when a story is “unconfirmed” or if accusations are “alleged.” These words are important signals, indicating that the facts aren’t fully known.
 
If you hear a rumor, check with a professional news source and look for a corroborating report. Log onto a government or major news website, such as CNN or MSNBC, for the latest information. Be particularly skeptical of information you receive via email.
 
When reviewing a story, ask:
  • Where did the story come from?
  • Who was the initial source?
  • Did this person get the information from someone else?

When a story’s origins are murky, look for confirmation by a second, unrelated news source.

If you still aren’t sure what to believe, the Constitutional Rights Foundation provides a helpful guide to fact-checking in the Information Age at www.crf-usa.org/war-in-iraq/media-in-times-of-crisis.html.

Be email savvy

Internet users can help stop chain letters, hoaxes and rumors by refusing to forward copies. Delete unconfirmed stories received via email or send the message to your computer security manager. Many email hoaxes contain a heartbreaking tale followed by a plea for financial help. Others inspire panic. If you can’t confirm the information using an outside source, stay skeptical—and don’t forward the email to others.
 
When you hear an unverified story, think before you believe. Rumors and urban legends have always been present (in our culture and in our email), but these stories are becoming increasingly powerful. Seek official or professional confirmation before you accept any rumor as fact. You may find that skepticism is an antidote to fear.
 
Resources
 
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
 
Constitutional Rights Foundation
By Lauren Greenwood de Beer

Summary

  • Think before you believe.
  • Stay skeptical and check the source.
  • Look for confirmation by a second, unrelated news source.
  • Be e-mail savvy.

On the Internet, rumors, hoaxes and urban legends have become powerful sources of public misinformation. A plea for money, a tragic story, a chain letter or a frightening news report are spread easily via email.
 
As these stories become increasingly sophisticated, we must all become equally wary. How can you tell fact from fiction? Where should you go for accurate information? What stories are already circulating? Here’s how to protect yourself from rumors, hoaxes and urban legends.
 
Stay skeptical and check the source

You can’t believe everything you hear. Reputable news sources will announce when a story is “unconfirmed” or if accusations are “alleged.” These words are important signals, indicating that the facts aren’t fully known.
 
If you hear a rumor, check with a professional news source and look for a corroborating report. Log onto a government or major news website, such as CNN or MSNBC, for the latest information. Be particularly skeptical of information you receive via email.
 
When reviewing a story, ask:
  • Where did the story come from?
  • Who was the initial source?
  • Did this person get the information from someone else?

When a story’s origins are murky, look for confirmation by a second, unrelated news source.

If you still aren’t sure what to believe, the Constitutional Rights Foundation provides a helpful guide to fact-checking in the Information Age at www.crf-usa.org/war-in-iraq/media-in-times-of-crisis.html.

Be email savvy

Internet users can help stop chain letters, hoaxes and rumors by refusing to forward copies. Delete unconfirmed stories received via email or send the message to your computer security manager. Many email hoaxes contain a heartbreaking tale followed by a plea for financial help. Others inspire panic. If you can’t confirm the information using an outside source, stay skeptical—and don’t forward the email to others.
 
When you hear an unverified story, think before you believe. Rumors and urban legends have always been present (in our culture and in our email), but these stories are becoming increasingly powerful. Seek official or professional confirmation before you accept any rumor as fact. You may find that skepticism is an antidote to fear.
 
Resources
 
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
 
Constitutional Rights Foundation
By Lauren Greenwood de Beer

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