Don’t believe everything on the Internet

Oh, the dreaded inaccuracies of the Internet! A few times a week, we get emails or Internet clippings from readers who are convinced that the information is the truth, yet in reality it's distorted, outdated or an out-and-out lie. We don't know h...

Oh, the dreaded inaccuracies of the Internet!

A few times a week, we get emails or Internet clippings from readers who are convinced that the information is the truth, yet in reality it’s distorted, outdated or an out-and-out lie.

We don’t know how to make this advice any simpler: Do not believe everything you read on the Internet.

Just because you receive something from a friend or another “trusted source” doesn’t make it the gospel truth. And beware of emails that are filled with three or more explanation points or question marks after every sentence. Screaming about something doesn’t make it true.

Lately, we’ve received more than a few emails blasting popular charities for paying their CEOs extravagant salaries and perks while giving nothing, or next to nothing, to charitable causes. It’s juicy stuff. The kind that makes you angry and almost wishing it was true because it’s so outrageous.


Consider, for instance, an Internet claim about Unicef CEO Caryl M. Stern getting paid $100,000 a month, plus all expenses, including a Rolls Royce, while the company donates less than 5 cents of every donated dollar to its cause.

In turns out, however, that Stern’s salary is less than half that amount and the organization’s efficiency rating - the percentage of its total budget and expenses that goes toward charitable programs and services - is 91 percent, according to Charity Navigator and Forbes. And the Rolls Royce? That was just plucked out of the thin air. There is no luxury vehicle or any company car provided for any staff member at Unicef.

Similar inaccuracies are being spun about the American Red Cross, United Way Worldwide and March of Dimes. The emails make it appear that nearly everything these organizations receive lines the pockets of their CEOs. In reality, those companies have the following efficiency ratings: Red Cross - 92 percent, United Way - 85 to 89 percent and March of Dimes - 65 percent.

Another company that’s been bashed - and misunderstood - because of bogus information on the Net is Goodwill Industries International. One email going around says that its CEO and owner, referred to as Mark Curran, gets paid $2.3 million a year, pays nothing for his products, only pays his workers minimum wage and donates absolutely nothing to help anyone.

The truth: For starters, the CEO of Goodwill Industries International is not Mark Curran. It’s Jim Gibbons, who in 2012 received a total compensation of $729,000. Also, Goodwill is not a business that takes in donated items and resells them for a profit. It’s a not-for-profit organization that provides job training, employment placement services and other community-based programs for people who have disabilities, lack education or job experience, or face employment challenges. Goodwill raises money for its programs through a chain of thrift stores - including one right here in Alexandria - which also operate as non-profits.

This, of course, is only the tip of the iceberg of faulty information that’s being spewed about via the Internet and emails. Here’s something to keep in mind: If you come across something outlandish, don’t automatically fall for it or perpetuate the lie by blindly forwarding it on to others. Check it out yourself through fact-checking sites like or . And don’t believe all those extra punctuation marks. - Alexandria Echo Press

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