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The phony viruses are usually described as being of devastating magnitude and requiring immediate action to adequately protect computer resources from infection. The majority of virus alerts that are sent via e-mail among users are actually hoaxes. Virus hoaxes are often forwarded among users for months or even years because the users believe they are helping others by distributing these warnings.
Although the hoaxes usually do not cause damage, some virus hoaxes are malicious and direct users to alter operating system settings or delete files, which could cause security or operational problems. Virus hoaxes can also be time consuming for organizations, because many hoax recipients contact technical support staff to warn them of the new threat or to ask for guidance. One well-known virus hoax is "Good Times."