Before you send us an email, please check that it doesn't fall into one of the following categories. Thank you.
Please do not tell me that you have sent us a virus, or fear you might have done so. And, especially, please don't adopt the more recent approach of telling me that you fear someone else might send us a virus.
Firstly, we have a virus checker that has caught all the viruses, worms, trojan horses, etc., that people have sent us so far - and it is regularly updated.
Secondly, you need to understand that nobody sends out warnings about viruses by email. Not genuine warnings, anyway. Nobody. Not Microsoft, Norton, or anyone else.
Thirdly, these companies make their money by selling you software to solve problems. They are not going to send out a email telling you how to fix a problem for free. They certainly won't send you and your friends an email telling you how to fix this problem without putting it in big letters on their own web site for their own customers to see.
As you have probably realised by now, the problem is not whatever the email virus warning describes - it is the email warning itself. The email message spreads because people are taken in and pass it on. It goes to everyone in your address book because you send it to them all.
If you are really worried, send me an email that points me to a page on a respectable site (Microsoft, Norton, the Home Office...) that describes the problem and what to do about it. Can't find one? Now that's a surprise.
Please do not send me any email petition, no matter how deeply you feel about the subject. I will not pass it on.
Firstly: many email petitions are hoaxes. Before you even think about passing it on, check it out first. If you don't have time to check it, then maybe the issue doesn't mean as much to you as you first thought.
Secondly: even if it is genuine, it is probably out of date. Email petitions can (and do!) circulate for years after the issue has been been sorted out - because people can't be bothered to check the details.
Thirdly: even if it is genuine and current, an email petition is not worth the paper it is printed on. An email petition is just an electronic file, a collection of binary ones and zeros. It is impossible to tell the difference between a genuine email that has passed through thousands of machines and one that was generated by a programmer with a database of names. All the honest effort behind many of these petitions is totally wasted.
However, this is what you can usefully do if you feel it is an issue I would be interested in.
If you do this, then I may well visit the web site and send an appropriate personal message to the person concerned.
There are many variations, but here are the details of the West African '419' letter and email scam as circulated by our local Neighbourhood Watch on 8 August 2002.
In the Avon & Somerset Force area there has been a marked increase in the number of West African '419' letters reported by members of the public over recent months. E-mail is becoming a favoured way of sending these letters, and to my knowledge, at least one of our own Co-ordinators has received one via e-mail. Many are removed from the postal system by the West African Organised Crime Section (WAOCS) prior to delivery by the postie.
The letters demand secrecy to 'protect' the senders family and state that the recipient is the only person to be given the information enclosed in the letter. Letters are worded in a way which tend to play on the compassionate side of the recipients nature, whilst offering huge financial rewards for help.
The normal format of these letters is to state that the sender is the son of a former chairman of a diamond mine or such like, and before his father was killed by rebels, he deposited money (around $20.5 million) and jewellery with an American company which, because of his influence, he was able to register as 'family treasure'.
The offer is that, for the recipients assistance in transferring this fund overseas, they will be paid 15% of the total amount involved, plus 5% for expenses. It asks that the recipients phone number, fax, cell phone be forwarded via the senders e-mail address to enable ease of communication. Things progress from there once contact details are sent.
This scam has been ongoing for a considerable time, and because of some success in informing the public about these letters, the average losses suffered by those victims eager to make a 'quick fortune' have been reduced to £68,000. Details can be found about this and other types of fraud on the Force website.
Should you or any members receive such an e-mail, please forward it to firstname.lastname@example.org or send hard copy letters to: DC 1810 Andy Davis, Fraud Squad Intelligence Officer, Avon & Somerset Constabulary, PO Box 37, Portishead, BS20 8QJ.
We support a number of people and organisations which we have developed strong links with over the years. We know them, value the work they do, and trust their judgement and integrity.
We make the material on this web site available to people for them to use in certain ways - please see the invitation at the foot of each page. We also often reply to questions by email. Beyond this, we do not respond to requests for help either by post or by email. Any such request will simply be placed in the bin or deleted.