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Bogus Hacker Warning – &#039 Between First and Second Names in Facebook Chat

by Brett M. Christensen

This story was first published on March 24, 2011

This rather silly hacker warning is currently moving around Facebook. The message claims that the appearance of the characters “&#039” between the first and second names of friends listed in your Facebook chat window is an indication that those friends have been hacked. The “warning” further claims that you should not attempt to chat with these hacked friends because, by doing so, you will open yourself up to a hacker attack as well.  

It is unclear where this foolish piece of advice originated, but you can rest assured that there is no truth to it. The characters “&#039” are simply the ASCII code for an apostrophe. ASCII is a character-encoding scheme used to represent alphanumeric and special characters in computing. ASCII uses a seven bit binary number to represent each character.

Thus, there is nothing mysterious about “&#039” and it certainly does not indicate that a particular user’s computer has been hacked. If the text on a website or in a web application is rendered or interpreted incorrectly by the user’s browser, it is possible that an apostrophe (‘) might appear as “&#039”.

The message does not provide any details about what the supposed hacker is out to achieve or how he goes about compromising his victim’s computers. Frankly, it seems rather illogical to suggest that this sinister hacker would advertise his conquests by making a visible change to the hacked user’s name, thereby lessening his chances of finding new victims. Why would he?

Furthermore, you cannot get hacked just by chatting with someone online. Even if a hacker had taken over your friend’s computer, he cannot attack you just by chatting. For a hacker to gain access to your computer or online accounts, some sort of exchange of information is necessary. For example, if you followed a link and inadvertently downloaded a trojan or other malware, the criminal may then be able to take control of your computer. Or, if you inadvertently provided your account passwords and usernames via a phishing scam or other ruse, then the hacker may well hijack your online accounts. But, even the cleverest criminal does not have the magic ability to hack you just by chatting to you.

Sending on false and misleading security warnings such as this serves no good purpose. If you see this message, please let the poster know the information is spurious. And do not repost it. 

An example of the hoax:

Open ur chat window, (the list of names of all ur friends online now). If you see this: &#039 in between their 1st & 2nd name they have been hacked. If u proceed to chat with them you will also be open to attack.??

Chat window Ascii Warning

Importance Notice

After considerable thought and with an ache in my heart, I have decided that the time has come to close down the Hoax-Slayer website.

These days, the site does not generate enough revenue to cover expenses, and I do not have the financial resources to sustain it going forward.

Moreover, I now work long hours in a full-time and physically taxing job, so maintaining and managing the website and publishing new material has become difficult for me.

And finally, after 18 years of writing about scams and hoaxes, I feel that it is time for me to take my fingers off the keyboard and focus on other projects and pastimes.

When I first started Hoax-Slayer, I never dreamed that I would still be working on the project all these years later or that it would become such an important part of my life. It's been a fantastic and engaging experience and one that I will always treasure.

I hope that my work over the years has helped to make the Internet a little safer and thwarted the activities of at least a few scammers and malicious pranksters.

A Big Thank You

I would also like to thank all of those wonderful people who have supported the project by sharing information from the site, contributing examples of scams and hoaxes, offering suggestions, donating funds, or helping behind the scenes.

I would especially like to thank David White for his tireless contribution to the Hoax-Slayer Facebook Page over many years. David's support has been invaluable, and I can not thank him enough.

Closing Date

Hoax-Slayer will still be around for a few weeks while I wind things down. The site will go offline on May 31, 2021. While I will not be publishing any new posts, you can still access existing material on the site until the date of closure.

Thank you, one and all!

Brett Christensen,