Internet "virus" hoaxes deserve several pages all their own. Here are some:
Two key points:
1) Never open anything INCLUDED, LINKED OR ATTACHED to an email from someone you don't know. This is only really a problem for users of Microsoft mail programs like Office, Outlook, and Exchange, but it's a good habit for everyone. It IS possible to download a dangerous executable program through e-mail, or through your web browser. For heaven's sake DON'T RUN A PROGRAM FROM A SOURCE YOU DON'T HAVE VERY GOOD REASON TO TRUST! If your browser or e-mail reader does not ask you permission before it runs a downloaded program, THROW THAT BROWSER OR READER AWAY! It's no more useful than a door to your house that can't keep anyone out. IS directors, get a clue and demand that macro and Visual Basic "functionality" be removed from Microsoft mail products!
2) Anyway, there is ABSOLUTELY NO WAY** for an email message to infect your computer with a virus just by reading it. Unless you click on the stuff that is "inside" a message, you are perfectly safe.
Here are some authoritative sources of information.
"Forward This message to get a free .... !"
Many hoaxes encourage their victims to forward a message to as many people as possible in order to get a reward for themselves or on the behalf of some charity. The hoax claims that if enough copies of the message get sent then something good will happen. Alternatively, some messages claim that unless enough messages are sent, than something bad will happen. Popular variants of this are currently centered on The Gap, Disney, Microsoft, and Bill Gates.
The thing to know is that there is no way for anyone to count the number of copies of an email in circulation on the internet, nor to count the number of times something has been forwarded. In order to actually do this, not only would you have to run a program that would "open" and examine the contents of many millions of email messages all over the world, the program would have to trace the path of each message. This would be an incredible technological challenge with no real return on the investment.
Urban Legends, Myths and Stories
The cookie story (Mrs. Fields, Neimen Marcus, etc) is a myth. It has been circulating for at least 10 years in various forms. Please do not forward it.
The kid who wants postcards before he dies is also no longer true, don't forward it either.
The federal government is NOT going to start charging for e-mail, or any other use the the internet. When you see a call to arms about this issue, disregard it.
The Kidney Theft story is a myth, your digestive organs are only valuable to you.
There are enough myths, legends, and hoaxes on the net to fill a book, in fact, one is growing, check out urban legends.com