My buddy Lazy Man took a break from thrusting his lance into Mona Vie to take aim at another product, Protandim from LifeVantage.  After a spirited (and a bit strange) debate, one of the supporters of the product took the unexpected leap to the “the IRS is a scam” argument.  At which point, any credibility he had was completely gone.  The whole idea of the IRS not having the right to collect taxes is a myth propagated by a small segment of the population.  The IRS has actually debunked a variety of bogus arguments on their web site, citing relevant case law so that you can look it up if you decide not to take their word for it.

Last week, I read a story about a man who took his computer into a repair shop in 2004 and ended up with a $6 million bill (it’s actually true – here’s the article from the New York Times).  The unethical shop owner told the victim (Roger Davidson) that there was indeed a virus on his computer.  Later, he told Davidson that the source of the virus was found on a hard drive in a remote part of Honduras.  Even worse, it was part of a plot by Polish priests affiliated with Opus Dei – they were trying to infiltrate the US government!  Again, I remind you this this actually happened – it’s not some new Dan Brown novel.

Several years ago, I overheard a lady in the new row of cubicles talking about the unfortunate death of her grandmother.  As it turns out, since nobody else’s name was on her grandma’s bank accounts, they money went “in to the state”.  I nearly did a facepalm as a realized that the grandma had died “intestate”, that is, without a will.  In those cases, the assets are distributed to heirs according to the state’s law of intestate succession.  In general, the closest living relatives get the assets.  You do not simply forfeit your assets to the state if you die without a will.

It seems that people have lost their BS detector at some point.  It’s actually pretty sad, since there are a lot of resources to use when debunking myths.  The venerable Snopes debunks pretty much anything – and is a great site to browse even when you’re not in debunking mode.  Some people quibble with the question of whether or not political debunking sites like FactCheck are unbiased, but the fact of the matter is that they will at least give you a starting point for reasearch.  Want to do your debunking in front of the TV – MythBusters.

I’m not suggesting that you automatically assume that everything is a lie – but take things with a grain of salt.  When you hear something that sounds absolutely incredible, do a bit of research before believing it – even if you hear it from your mom.  In the case of the man with the computer virus from Honduras – take a step back and get a second opinion!  If you take a moment to do a bit of research, you’ll find a multitude of tools that can help you debunk or affirm an argument.