Add another name to the ever-growing list of e-mail hoaxes: The “Klingerman virus” that supposedly reaches its victims through the U.S. Postal Service is nothing but junk mail.
The e-mail warning made news in May but has enjoyed a recent resurgence. The latest version begins with a disclaimer saying it is from “Schwab corporate headquarters — so it’s no joke.”
It reads in part: “This is an alert about a virus in the original sense of the word … one that affects your body, not your hard drive. There have been 23 confirmed cases of people attacked by the Klingerman Virus, a virus that arrives in your real mailbox, not your e-mail in-box. Someone has been mailing large blue envelopes, seemingly at random, to people inside the U.S. On the front of the envelope in bold black letters is printed, ‘A gift for you from the Klingerman Foundation.’
“When the envelopes are opened, there is a small sponge sealed in plastic. This sponge carries what has come to be known as the Klingerman Virus. As public health officials state, this is a strain of virus they have not previously encountered.”
The e-mail advises any and all recipients of an oversized blue envelope to “place it in a strong plastic bag or container and call the police immediately” and to “PASS THIS ON TO EVERYONE YOU CARE ABOUT.” It is “signed” by Sandra Dee McNair-Boyd of Yale–New Haven Hospital and includes a phone number.
However, when called, the phone number yields the following recorded message: “If you are calling about the e-mail warning of something called the ‘Klingerman virus,’ please be advised that e-mail has been determined to be a hoax. It did not originate at Yale–New Haven Hospital.”
But some took the e-mail warning seriously, including Geraldine Emanuel of Palm Beach County. Emanuel found a pale blue envelope promising a cash prize and stamped with the words “restricted access” in her mailbox. Fearing it contained the “Klingerman virus,” she wrapped it in a plastic grocery bag and called 911 two days later, according to the Associated Press. Palm Beach County Sheriff’s deputies, a bomb squad, a hazardous materials team and a postal inspector converged on Emanuel’s home to inspect the envelope.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention received several inquiries about the e-mail message.
“The e-mail is a hoax,” clarifies the CDC. “There is no ‘Klingerman virus,’ and the information in the e-mail notice is untrue. If you receive an e-mail message about the ‘Klingerman virus,’ please do not forward it to others.”
While debunking the rumor, the agency gives instructions to call the post office if there is concern about the contents of a package received in the mail.
“It is a criminal offense to send potentially hazardous agents through the mail for the purpose of deliberately causing harm to human health. When such an incident occurs, the local emergency response system should be activated by dialing 911 in most communities; in communities without 911 systems, local law enforcement authorities should be notified. The local FBI field office and local and state public health authorities also should be notified,” the notice concludes.
The U.S. Postal Service is also aware of the e-mail message and has posted a reference on its website to the CDC statement. Additionally, the websites “Snopes” and “Urbanlegends” found the message to be false.