My first time was with the "Good Times Virus." It was 1995 and the Good Times virus was already well known to those with even a smallest fraction of a clue. I, however, was a newbie. The "Good Times Virus" was not actually a virus. It was actually more an exercise in social engineering, playing on the excitement and paranoia of those new to the Net. It was an email warning that told you not to open any email with the subject line "Good Times" because the Good Times email was a worm.
Note that this was before the time when Microsoft had designed Outlook to automatically execute attached files -- and before the time that skript-kiddies arrived on the scene taking advantage of fools who were clueless enough to open attachments in the hope of seeing pictures of tennis star Anna Kournikova -- and before the time when HTML emails were popular (an excellent opportunity to slip in, for instances, some mischievous script). Internet worms, however, were not new. In 1987, the notorious email worm IBM VM Christmas Card was unleashed.
Email way back in the good old days was just ASCII text, and ASCII text, in of itself, can do little. People who knew better, knew that there could be, at that time, no such thing as a Good Times Virus. Panicked Newbies, however, would forward the warning to all of their soon-not-to-be friends.
Some hoaxes are humorous urban legends that provide a source of amusement as new herds of the gullible fall for them. Other hoaxes are more serious, rising to the level of criminal fraud and meriting a higher level response. An excellent source of hoax debunking information can be found at the Department of Energy's Computer Incident Advisory Capability (CIAC). CIAC established Hoaxbusters, a website dedicated to categorizing hoaxes and urban legends, providing links to relevant responses. When you need an authoritative source to tell a friend, subscriber, or client that their fears are unfounded, Hoaxbusters is the place.
Not quite serious, but nevertheless resulting in a flurry of Congressional action, was the infamous 602P hoax. Over time there has been several panics that the federal government was intending to tax the Internet. The year 1999 saw a reemergence of this panic. According to a widely circulated email, Senator Schnell (German for "Fast") had recently introduced the legislative proposal 602P that would impose a 5 cent tax upon every email sent (or assess access charges on modems, aka "The Modem Tax"), with the proceeds going to the US Post Office. It was reported that the March 6 edition of Washingtonian Magazine included an editorial that supported the email tax. Panic spread and Congress was inundated by concerned citizens.
Like the "Good Times Virus," however, this hoax was a self obvious deception. There was no Sen. Schnell (notice the german translation). There is no congressional format "602P"; legislation in the House would be H.R. 602 and legislation in the Senate would be S. 602. There was no March 6 edition of Washingtonian; it is a monthly periodical that does not publish issues on specific days. There was no editorial, there was no such legislation, and the Virginia law firm that was reportedly leading the lobbying campaign against the bill did not exist.
Nevertheless, Washingtonian Magazine, the US Post Office, and a multitude of Congressional offices were so inundated by inquiries that they were forced to post responses disclaiming the existence of the legislation - and if it did exist, disclaiming any support for such legislation. In a perfect example of life inside the Beltway, Rep. Upton introduced legislation in response to the non-existence 602P, in order to prohibit the federal government from doing what it had no intention of doing; the measure was passed the House.