We've long warned our readers to make good use of the delete key when emails spreading sketchy claims pop up in their inboxes. But we've found that old viral emails, unfortunately, never die — and new ones spread like a highly contagious disease.
These overwhelmingly anonymous messages are, by and large, bogus. Many not only twist the facts but also peddle pure fabrications, urging recipients to forward these "shocking" revelations to all their friends. And despite all good common sense, people do pass along these malicious attempts to deceive, often in the same amount of time it would take to check their tenuous hold on veracity.
Our readers — some clearly trying to beat back the onslaught from friends — constantly ask us to put these viral claims to the truth test.
In 2012, we found that:
n Dueling graphics on the debt both overstated and understated President Barack Obama's contribution to the debt.
n No, Obama didn't give Alaskan islands to Russia, and his early records weren't "sealed."
n Over-the-top "death panel" claims about the Affordable Care Act included purely invented stories about elderly Americans being denied dialysis or brain surgery.
n Vote-rigging conspiracies claimed that Tagg Romney owned voting machines in Ohio (he doesn't) and that uncounted military ballots swung the election for Obama (from a "faux news" site).
n In the tin-foil-hat category, one conspiracy said Obama was creating martial law and a "standing army of government youth." The adult-aged FEMA Corps members help with natural disasters and can't carry weapons.
n General Motors is still firmly based in the U.S., despite claims that it's becoming "China Motors."
n Old-but-still-kicking emails percolated, claiming that Medicare premiums were about to skyrocket, everyone's home sales would be taxed, and the Obama administration wanted to ban weapons among U.S. citizens — none of which is true.