Are Telamonia dimidiata spiders being found under airplane toilet seats — and can they really kill you?

Telamonia dimidiata spiders, unclaimed funds, and political spam: Internet ScamBusters #199

We’ve been getting so many good questions from subscribers, we decided to do another subscriber Q&A issue today. You’ll find out the answers to:

  • Are Telamonia dimidiata spiders being found under airplane toilet seats — and can they really kill you?
  • Does my sister really have $7900 of unclaimed funds coming to her?
  • Should I brace myself for an onslaught of political spam?

Let’s begin…

Internet ScamBusters Q&A

Question: Right after seeing the movie Snakes on a Plane, I got an email warning that spiders called the Telamonia dimidiata were found under an airplane toilet seat on a flight from India, and they had killed several people on the plane. Is this true or just another hoax?

Answer: It’s a hoax. This urban legend seems to have originated about seven years ago.

The initial email hoax involving the story was easily recognized as a fake because the spider species in the story was fictitious (arachnius gluteus), so it was easy to disprove.

Of course, those who propagate urban legends can’t let a “good” story die, so they had to do something about the believability factor.

To make the story more credible, the story was rewritten to include an actual spider species, Telamonia dimidiata. The story also now mentions a medical journal (Journal of the United Medical Association) where this incident supposedly was reported, but this medical journal doesn’t exist.

The two most common current versions of this story are: 1. the Telamonia dimidiata spiders are appearing in North Florida and came from airplanes from India; and 2. the spiders are from South America and were found hiding under toilet seats in a restaurant in Chicago’s (nonexistent) Blaire Airport.

Many of the current emails also often mention the Civilian Aeronautics Board (CAB), which never existed. The similar sounding Civil Aeronautics Board was abolished in 1984.

While it’s not unheard of for spiders to take up residence in a public bathroom, toilet seats themselves are not a habitat of choice, and the disinfectants used to clean airplane toilets would probably displace them shortly.

Perhaps the only true part of the story is that the Telamonia dimidiata is a real species of spider from Indonesia and India, but its venom is harmless.

So, although there are many legitimate concerns regarding airplane travel, finding deadly Telamonia dimidiata spiders under the toilet seats is definitely a low priority worry. 😉

Question: My sister was recently contacted that she and her husband (who is deceased) have unclaimed money in the amount of over $7900. They are not asking for any money up front, but do charge a 15% fee of the money collected. Do you know of any scams regarding this? I think it is a scam.

Answer: Whereas this is not an outright scam, you can recover any unclaimed money that is owed to you by yourself quite easily — and there is no cost for this. We’ve written about how to get unclaimed funds here.

Question: I heard that I’m going to be getting an excessive amount of political spam (as you call it). Should I brace myself for a huge amount of new spam, or is this just an urban legend?

Answer: Many experts are quite concerned that we all will indeed get a huge amount of political spam (from both parties) during this election season.

They predict that a new loophole in the regulations approved by the Federal Election Commission in March, which governs election spending, will most likely produce an onslaught of political spam.

This exemption to the election spending regulations allows wealthy individuals to make unlimited contributions to be used for Internet communications — without having to disclose either the identity of the donor or the amount contributed.

Companies that sell email addresses to political campaigns have been rapidly expanding their staffs over the past several months.

Critics have been very worried that the amount of political spam will grow exponentially during this fall campaign season.

Bloggers supported the idea that their writing should not be regulated and should be seen different from campaign contributions.

This is a complicated issue. There are important First Amendment issues here. Regardless, it is likely that you’ll be receiving a torrent of political spam shortly, if it hasn’t started already. (We hope we’re wrong on this, btw.)

That’s all for now. Have a wonderful week.