Internet Chain Letters

Chain Letters are letters or emails that generally promise the user a very large return for just a little bit of effort. The earliest chain letters started out by mail. A list of potential customers could be bought from companies, and a mass mailing would start to a certain amount of people. The goal of the letter was for the receiver to send something, usually a certain amount of money, to the very first person. Then, you take that name off of the list, move up all the names on the list, and add your own name onto the bottom. You were then instructed to mail updated copies of this letter out to so many people, and if you did, you would soon start receiving massive amounts of money.

Silcom History of chain letters
Hoax Kill Virus hoaxes, chain letters, urban myths
Physorg Article on how chain letters circulate
FTC Federal trade commission on chain letters

Most of the time it is easy to recognize an Internet chain letter as a fraud. The United States Postal Service also states that it is illegal to send chain letters through the mail. However, with the invention of the Internet, chain letters evolved into different ideas and hoaxes. Now there are thousands of letters, hoaxes and schemes that pass through emails, email hosting sites, message boards and networking sites. Email archiving programs are used to easily collect email addresses so that a large list of thousands of names can be compiled.

US Postal Service Legality of chain letters through the mail
Ethics How to spot a chain letter

There are many famous Internet chain letters that have been going around for years. Many times, chain letters re-surface after a number of years, with slightly different information, yet the same idea.

An excerpt from these types of Internet hoaxes follows:
“A short while after you begin this program you will realize what a remarkable money machine this is. Nine days after my sponsor began advertising on line, he received 32 envelopes. Each sender had enclosed $5.00. Forty seven days after his first advertisement appeared on line, the total receipts had risen to $17,654. He ran 15 ads for a two-week period and during that time, sent this file to 168 people. He stopped sending the file after he had received 23 envelopes; each one contained $5.00.”

Remember, this is an exact quote from only one source; there are many more that sound the same but are somewhat worded differently. You can find the whole chain letter and more at the following:

Free Money- A Great Opportunity Basic get-rich-quick scheme
Neiman-Marcus Recipe Cookie recipe
Examples of Chain Letters different popular chain letters

Most people are aware of the chain letters that are continuously circulating the Internet. However, there are still some who fall prey to them, and these are the people the originators are looking for. Following some tips to recognizing a hoax is the first step to weeding through so much false information on the Internet. The first step is to understand that if an offer is too good to be true, than it probably is. Get-rich-quick schemes do not work, and anyone who promises large amounts of money in just days cannot be telling the truth. If you believe that you have come across a legitimate company, research it first. Check online for more information.

Break the Chain Chains in the news, updates
Snopes Excellent source to check on false information
Scam Busters Scams and information on online protection
Symantec Excellent list of all known viruses from a highly reputable online protection company
Kith Article on how to defeat a chain letter
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Internet chain letters can be annoying when they fill up your email inbox. Make sure you realize what are scams and hoaxes and what aren’t by researching and becoming knowledgeable on the subject.