You have seen these things in your email inbox, haven't you?
Watch out for cars driving with their lights out. If you flash your lights to warn them, they will hunt you down and kill you.
Be careful reaching into the change slot of a soft drink machine, there might be an aids-infected needle placed there by an insane person.
Amy has a wish, but it can only be fuilfilled if you forward the message to at least 800 other people.
Some are obviously hoaxes, but some might sound real. Generally, a lack of verifiable details (names, places, actual dates in stead of "last Tuesday") is at least a warning that the email might not be real. But what if it is and your best friend winds up sitting in a tub of ice without their liver just because you didn't forward the email? How can you tell?
Generally I visit truthorfiction.com as my first stop. The site is no-frills and features a convenient category listing on the left sidebar, virus alerts on the right sidebar, and a search engine. Usually there is an example of the email as received on the internet and a short description of why it is true or false. A convenient link to new items saves me a lot of time.
Another favorite is Snopes Urban Legends page. Generally the articles here are longer than at truthorfiction. They frequently contain links to original documents (where appropriate). They also have a search engine. This is not for a "quickie" read, but an in-depth analysis.
There is also Break the Chain. While not as user-friendly as truthorfiction or as detailed as Snopes, it does focus on "waste of time" emails. Check them out.
For political truth check, I generally go to Annenberg Political Fact Check. While these are generally well-researched and attempt to be bias-free, occasionally they fail. I recently documented one such failure.
My next post will feature an update on that issue. I think I hear Blarney and Dave talking. Maybe we can listen in on them later, also.
Update 5:33 AM on August 1, 2005
camojack recommends about.com also. There are a lot of interesting things there, but it is more of a general information site than a rumor check site. I was able to find the picture that Hawkeye® showed by using their serach feature.
Update 11:32 AM on August 1, 2005
Try this for urban legends at about.com. Hat Tip to camojack, again.