"Postcard from Hallmark" Virus Hoax - Urban Legends

Protecting Yourself Against Email Hoaxes

Women in the workplace suffer from the spam
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A hoax circulating since February 2008 warns users to beware of "the worst virus ever" in the form of an email attachment titled "POSTCARD" or "POSTCARD FROM HALLMARK." Though real e-card viruses certainly do exist, this one is a hoax.

Note that while some versions of the hoax below claim the information was "verified" on Snopes.com, this is NOT true. What has been verified is a different e-card virus threat with a similar name. Proceed with caution!

Protecting Yourself From Viral Hoaxes and Threats

With so many real viruses in circulation with names almost identical to the bogus threats you may read about in hoax messages like the ones below, it's crucial to know how to distinguish real virus threats from bogus ones.

Here are a few points to keep in mind:

1. It's true that there are real viruses, Trojans, and other malicious programs distributed via fake e-card notices.

These emails containing malware may arrive with dozens of different titles including:

  • You've received a Hallmark E-Card!
  • You've received a postcard from a family member!
  • Colleague sent you a postcard from egreetings.com!
  • Birthday e-card

These do resemble legitimate notices from e-card providers, so users need to be very careful when dealing with these emails, no matter what the apparent source. Before clicking on any links or attachments in the body of such a message, check to see if you can verify that it came from a legitimate source — it isn't always easy. If you can't verify, don't click!

Don't click on links or attachments in e-card notices that arrive anonymously, or from senders whose names you don't recognize. And don't click on attachments or links that seem suspicious in any way.

2. Generally speaking, forwarded virus warnings such as the "POSTCARD" Alerts above cannot be trusted to provide accurate details.

Read carefully! Try not to confuse hoax warnings with the real thing. Bogus virus alerts often contain links to websites which, at first glance, may seem to confirm the authenticity of the message, but which in fact discuss a completely different matter.

The very message we're discussing on this page is a case in point. Despite the fact that there are real e-card viruses out there, and some of them may even employ the words "Hallmark" and "postcard," the warnings above are, in fact, hoaxes. They're simply the latest of many variants of a false alert that began circulating years ago (compare the verbiage and you'll see).

Don't depend on this type of viral alert for protection and avoid forwarding such messages to other people unless you can confirm with some certainty that the threat they describe is real.

3. Protecting yourself from real virus and Trojan horse threats entail a few simple but critical measures. Follow these guidelines assiduously:

  • Always be very careful about which attachments you open and which files you download. If you can't be reasonably sure they are safe, don't open or download them.
  • Maintain up-to-date antivirus software, configure it to detect trojan horses and other malware automatically, and scan for viruses and other threats regularly.
  • Be careful of the links you choose to click, especially in messages from anonymous or unfamiliar sources. Clicking on these links can instantly download malicious software onto your computer.

Sample Hallmark Hoax Email

Here's sample email text contributed by Caroline O. on June 13, 2008.

Hi All, I checked Snopes (URL above:), it is for real!!
Get this e-mail message sent around to your contacts ASAP.
You should be alert during the next few days. Do not open any message with an attachment entitled POSTCARD FROM HALLMARK, regardless of who sent it to you. It is a virus which opens A POSTCARD IMAGE, which "burns" the whole hard disc C of your computer. This virus will be received from someone who has your e-mail address in his/her contact list. This is the reason why you need to send this e-mail to all your contacts. It is better to receive this message 25 times than to receive the virus and open it.
If you receive a mail called POSTCARD, even though sent to you by a friend, do not open it! Shut down your computer immediately.
This is the worst virus according to CNN. It has been classified by Microsoft as the most destructive virus ever. This virus was discovered by McAfee yesterday, and there is no repair yet for this kind of virus. This virus simply destroys the Zero Sector of the Hard Disc, where the vital information is kept.
Snopes lists all the names it could come in.

See also: "Olympic Torch" Virus Warning, another version of this hoax.

Sources and Further Reading:

Greetings! Someone Has Sent You an E-Card Virus
Computerworld, August 16, 2007

Hoax Encyclopedia: A Virtual Card for You
"Hoaxes are a waste of both time and money. Please don't forward them on to others."