… I read it on the Internet.

WASHINGTON, D.C.-The Centers for Disease Control announced today that many Internet users are becoming infected by a new virus that causes them to believe without question every groundless story, legend, and dire warning that shows up in their inbox or on their browser.

The Internet Gullibility Virus, as it is called, apparently makes people believe and forward copies of silly hoaxes relating to cookie recipes, email viruses, taxes on modems, useless and generally false factoids, and get-rich-quick schemes.

“These are not just readers of tabloids or people who buy lottery tickets based on fortune cookie numbers,” a spokesman said. “Most are otherwise normal people, who would laugh at the same stories if told to them by a stranger on a street corner.” However, once these same people become infected with IGV, they believe anything they read on the Internet.

“My immunity to tall tales and bizarre claims is all gone,” reported one weeping victim. “I believe every warning message and sick child story my friends forward to me, even though most of the messages are anonymous.”

Another victim, now in remission, added, “When I first heard that Bill Gates was giving away money, just for sending an email, I just accepted it without question. After all, there were dozens of other recipients on the mail header, so I thought it must be true.”

It was a long time, the victim said, before she could stand up at a Hoaxees Anonymous meeting and state, “My name is Jane, and I’ve been hoaxed.” Now, however, she is spreading the word. “Challenge and check whatever you read,” she says.

Internet users are urged to examine themselves for symptoms of the virus, which include the following:

  • The willingness to believe improbable stories without thinking.
  • The urge to forward multiple copies of such stories to others.
  • A lack of desire to take three minutes to check to see if a story is true.

T.C. is an example of someone recently infected. He told one reporter, “I read on the Net that the major ingredient in almost all shampoos makes your hair fall out, so I’ve stopped using shampoo”.

When told about the Gullibility Virus, T.C. said he would stop reading email, so that he would not become infected.

Anyone with symptoms like these is urged to seek help immediately.

Experts recommend that at the first feelings of gullibility, Internet users rush to their favorite search engine and look up the item tempting them to thoughtless credence. Most hoaxes, urban legends, and tall tales have been widely discussed and exposed by the Internet community.

Directed towards my mom … but I’m sure we all know one or two people (ahem, elderly or otherwise not technically savant family members) who have been infected.