It must be true, I read it on the Internet!

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Facts, falsehoods abound on the World Wide Web

By Leslie Moore


The Internet offers instant access to all kinds of information.

But because there is no governing body that proofreads and fact-checks everything before it is posted, there is a potential for false information to spread like wildfire through chain emails, online forums and social media.

This can often leave people with nagging questions - will entering my ATM code backwards alert the police? Does the FBI lock computers and charge a fee to unlock them? For answers to these and other strange stories posted online, read on.

Grapefruit has long been touted for its many health benefits, from its lycopene content, which gives the fruit its ruby red color, to its enzymes that supposedly help burn calories. But now emails are being passed around containing ominous warnings about grapefruit interacting with certain medications and causing potentially dangerous side effects.

A bright-colored member of the citrus family, grapefruit seems like a perfectly harmless fruit. But according to Tresea Phillips, pharmacist at Century Medicine, grapefruit does have the potential to cause some medications to not work properly.

“Grapefruit interferes with the statins that are used for regulating cholesterol,” Phillips said. “If you’re taking these, you should limit your intake of grapefruit juice.”

Phillips said grapefruit can also interfere with valium and similar medications because it causes the drug to be metabolized differently.

“A lot of times, [the drug] will clear the system before it should because of the enzymes in the grapefruit juice.”

Pharmacist Jay Eastridge at Eastridge-Phelps Pharmacy said there are several medications whose effects may be compromised by the consumption of grapefruit.

“We typically put some sort of auxiliary label saying that there is an interaction with grapefruit,” Eastridge said. “We obviously tell them to avoid grapefruit.”

Contact a doctor or pharmacist for a list of medications that react to grapefruit.

Taylor County Sheriff’s Detective Brian Pickard says people can’t believe everything they read on the Internet. He said there are many scams and viruses that can cost an unsuspecting person hundreds of dollars or infect their computer.

“The Internet’s a dangerous place. I see it every day because that’s all I deal with,” Pickard said.

Pickard said there is a MoneyPak scam called the FBI Online Agent Virus that sends a notification claiming to be from the Federal Bureau of Investigation that accuses the user of being involved with the distribution of pornographic material, SPAM and copyrighted content.

“It pops up and says your computer has been locked by the FBI and if you pay $200 or $300 dollars they will unlock it,” Pickard said.

But Pickard said law enforcement does not operate that way.

“We don’t lock people’s computers and tell them to pay us $300 and it will be OK for them to look at child porn,” Pickard said.

Pickard said it is often hard to believe the scams people get sucked into. He said anytime someone receives an unsolicited email claiming the recipient has won a large sum of money but needs to send them money to claim the prize, it’s a scam.

“You’ve inherited a million but send in $2,500 for taxes and we’ll send it to you, that’s not going to happen,” Pickard said. “That’s not the way the whole system works.”

The Internet has also fueled a desire for self-diagnosis and can sometimes lead people to believe they have a medical condition when they don’t. Using flash photography to detect cancer certainly sounds like a hoax, but in the case of one cancer, snapping a picture can save a life.

According to Dr. Paul Patterson, O.D., retinoblastoma, a rare cancer of the eye that generally affects children ages four and younger, can be seen in photographs.

“The reason that you could see a white reflex on the camera, the tumor itself originates in the retina but as the tumor grows, it pushes forward into other parts of the eye,” Patterson said.

Patterson said the tumor is usually gray or white in color and usually just one eye is affected.

“If you see from a photograph that one eye looks white or gray while the other has red eye, you should definitely bring the child to a doctor,” Patterson said. Patterson said that because of various camera settings and light reflection, this method is not always reliable and only a doctor can determine if it is in fact retinoblastoma.

A post recently seen on Facebook advises ATM users who find themselves threatened by someone demanding money to simply enter their ATM pin number backwards. Supposedly, the ATM will give the money while at the same time notify police. This appears to be a myth.

Bethany Shively at Taylor County Bank said if such a thing were true, she has never heard of it.

“I believe that that is incorrect,” Shively said. “If you put in the wrong series of numbers, it’s going to deny you access to your account.”

Sondra Lee at Citizens Bank & Trust Co. agrees and said this isn’t true, as does Ashley Scott at Forcht Bank.

“We’ve never heard that anyway,” Scott said. “I don’t think there’s any truth to it.”

Reading stories on the Internet can be entertaining, and sometimes they are true. But they are just as often not.