Before the internet with the millions of pages of information, some true, some not so much, I read an article in a popular science magazine that seemed “too good to be true”. The author was reporting that a photovoltaic (solar cell), could be made easily at home with beach sand, and some easy to locate chemicals. The hook was that beach sand has silica, and that can be made into glass, and silica does have the potential to be converted by chemicals to produce small amounts of electricity. Fortunately for me, reason took over and the process had too many erroneous steps. When I reread the caption, the title indicated that this was the April edition. Duh!
It is very easy to find hoaxes on the internet. YouTube is full of half-truths and outright lies. The problem is that there are many people who believe what they read and really do not think reasonably or question rationally. Perhaps it is that what they expect is a way to do something that really cannot be done. And then there are the completely contrived videos that are fabricated with the hope that their work will become viral. But no matter what the intent, deception is deception.
Another good example is the problem encountered on dating sites. When and if, correspondents finally meet the results can be very disappointing.
For me, the one word that jumps out as dangerous as opposed to annoying is the word fraud. This occurs when the intent is to gain financially from a deception. A well known example is the pyramid scam, or Ponzi scheme most recently carried out by Bernie Madoff.
So how do we protect ourselves at a period when the times and the internet provide such a rich and fertile ground for deceit? I believe that we have to be skeptical inquirers, questioning everything that we see and hear from individuals, internet sites, the government, and particularly, the media. Please double check statements and information expecting the worst, and hoping for the best. The trend as I see it is that it will only get worse and it becomes easier to be a victim. For a look at some interesting scams check out Scambusters.org here. As as often been said, "the best defense is a good offense"...