A hoax is an act of deception which is designed to trick people into believing or doing something. Many are designed as lighthearted practical jokes, although have a more serious purpose, and are intended to raise awareness about an issue or to get a community actively involved in something. These uses contrast hoaxes from cons, acts of deception which are perpetrated for financial or personal gain. Many people point out that cons are often harmful, while hoaxes are embarrassing but usually cause no permanent damage.
There are a number of types of hoax, and some involve coordinated effort on the part of people and organizations. For example, one might involve an object which is supposed to do something astounding, and does, when demonstrated by the person perpetrating the deception. In the modern era, a hoax can be sent in an email; many email hoaxes contain images which are purported to be real but are in fact heavily modified. Typically, once a hoax has been accepted, the people behind the trick unveil the truth.
A traditional time for hoaxing in many countries is the first day of April, also known as April Fools' Day. Practical jokes often abound on this day, and in some regions, governments and news media can get into the fun. The BBC, for example, aired a riveting story in 1957 about the Swiss spaghetti harvest. Hoaxes are also included in graduation festivities at some colleges, with fun-loving graduates playing pranks on each other and the surrounding community.
Some famous events in history such as the moon landing have been called hoaxes by conspiracy theorists, despite ample evidence to the contrary. For example, a government could trick its populace into believing that a war was necessary, or a deception which was designed to raise awareness about a social issue could go too far. Some journalistic hoaxes have also been quite harmful, undermining the reputation of specific newspapers and the journalistic profession in general.