Hoaxes, satire, and scams are abundant on the web on any given day, but are especially on April 1. Take these steps to avoid becoming a hapless victim.
- Step 1: Open your e-mail with caution. Messages that appear to be from your bank, Facebook, PayPal, or eBay requesting personal information like passwords may be phishing scams. Don't click on strange links in posts or messages, even if they appear to be from friends.
- Step 2: Use common sense. Anything that looks too good to be true probably is, so go ahead and delete that e-mail promising you untold riches from that Nigerian prince.
- FACT: Burger King announced the April 1, 1998, launch of a "Left-Handed Whopper," with the condiments rotated 180 degrees for left-handed customers, before revealing that it was a hoax the following day.
- TIP: Be wary of anyone asking for money over the web -- even someone who appears to be a family member.
- Step 3: Know that scams on dating websites are on the rise. Correspondence may start with someone outside the country and continue for months before the inevitable request for money or a airplane ticket -- a surefire scam.
- Step 4: Get schooled in internet scams. Do your homework and look into dubious-sounding claims or requests. Go to snopes.com, which lists top scams and the latest web schemes, if you get a suspicious e-mail or Facebook posting.
- Step 5: Check out the security page on Facebook, which warns of any fraud they're aware of on their site. Fake toolbars or messages from friends abroad needing money are common schemes.
- TIP: Adjust your privacy settings to avoid giving out too much information to strangers.
- Step 6: Study classic April Fools' pranks for patterns and themes. Be skeptical of companies that issue press releases touting new products or any new scientific discoveries -- among the more common pranks.