A good friend, an attorney no less, sent me one of those Fwd: Fwd: Fwd: (etc.) things. He also sent it to 19 others. To wit:

<<**_JURY Duty Scam_** *Pass this on to your grown children. This has been verified by the FBI (their link is also included below). Please pass this on to everyone in your email address book. It is spreading fast so be prepared should you get this call. Most of us take those summonses for jury duty seriously, but enough people skip out on their civic  duty that a new and ominous kind of fraud has surfaced.

<<The caller claims to be a jury DUTY coordinator. If you protest that you never received a summons for jury duty, the Scammer asks you for your Social Security number and date of birth so he or she can verify the information and cancel the arrest warrant. Give out any of this information and bingo, your identity was just stolen.

<<The fraud has been reported so far in 11 states, including Oklahoma , Illinois , and Colorado, AZ and more. This (swindle) is particularly insidious because they use intimidation over the phone to try to bully people into giving information by pretending they are with the court system.

<<The FBI and the federal court system have issued nationwide alerts on their web sites, warning consumers about the fraud. Check it out here: http://www.fbi.gov/page2/june06/jury_scams060206.htm_ And here: http://www.snopes.com/crime/fraud/juryduty.asp Yep! It's true Please make sure and pass this on!>>

OMG! If this spam had not warned you, you and your adult children (and of course everyone in your address book) would have given up your Social Security number just like that, if a stranger told you he was a jury duty coordinator. It would not cross your mind that we have two jury commissioners, one from each party, and they do not have staff for calling us up and harassing us.

And Snopes and the FBI and the federal court system are all over this, right? Must be serious! Snopes is considered so authoritative when it comes to scams and urban legends, we don’t even bother to click on the link. (We should, though.)

But if we just read the supposed FBI link, and notice the date, that might give us a clue. This is just baloney. Never was much more than, well, SPAM (luncheon meat), and has been baloney for a while. Not Swift baloney, mind you, because the “threat” surfaced in 2005 and never amounted to much, and the latest report of it I could find was from 2006.

Of course the FBI never did issue an alert. Since when is a disclaimer on their website an alert? In case anyone got such a call and looked on the FBI website, at least back then, the information would be there, that there is no actual effort by jury duty coordinators to round up jury duty shirkers. The American Cancer Society might still have a disclaimer concerning the dying child scam and requests for greeting cards or e-mails or whatever. That isn’t an alert, and it doesn’t mean there is a current threat.

Besides, we have been told so often that we should never, ever give up our SSNs to anyone on the phone! Maybe if we initiate a call to the Social Security office, we would want to spit out our number, but I think it is more likely the person we are speaking with would be able to ascertain that number from our name and maybe our DOB or our address or even our phone number if it’s the one they have on file.

Talk about spam! Talk about passing out our info to strangers! My friend, who is astute about many things, sent those other recipients’ e-dresses to me in the clear. What’s the quickest way to harvest them and add them to the collection of known-good e-mail addies to spam to or sell to spammers? Right-click on each one and choose “add to address book”? Reply All (Ctrl Shift r)? Of course, there is the unsettling knowledge that all these folks now have my e-dress. And if I had done a straight Fwd: as instructed, each of my recips would have all 20.

My learned friend would be used to looking for motive, I suppose. It might not seem to him that some people love to launch, or relaunch, those fake warnings (or glurge about how if you really love Jesus you will not be ashamed to send the “inspirational” and heavily embellished message, in a fancy font at 48 points, to everyone you know) just because they have some sick need to control people—to trick them, to make them follow orders—and they are malicious enough to use this method to slow mail servers far and wide, and bring some of them down in a heap.

I don’t get those silly mass-forward things much, because each time I get one, I send back a message stating the reasons it is pointless and downright harmful to send them, and that ALL messages instructing the recipient to send them on to any particular number, or to everyone, are harmful, and none are worth consideration. If there is another chain-forwarded message from a given sender, I’m likely to use Reply All.

What’s your favorite example of mindlessly forwarded mindless drivel (or overblown panic)?