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What is a chain letter?

Chain letters are similar to email hoaxes, except that they have a different method of convincing people to pass them on to everybody else: they offer money or luck in exchange of forwarding them to other people. Chain letters have been invented with one purpose: to trick people. That's why sometimes they are not easy to recognize. For instance, there are hoaxes claiming to kill email chain letters, but in fact they themselves are hoaxes or even email chain letters.

How to recognize chain letters?

  • Chain letters are made up of three easily recognizable parts: a hook, a threat and a request.
    • The hook catches your interest to make you read the whole letter. Statements such as: "Make Money Fast!", "Get Rich!", "Danger!", "Virus Alert" or "A Little Girl Is Dying", are usually used in chain letters just to entice your imagination.
    • The threat warns you that horrible things are going to happen (if you refuse to forward the letter and brake the chain) or play on your greed or sympathy to make you pass the email letter further on.
    • The request asks you to "Distribute this letter to as many people as possible." or to "Forward this email to all your friends", etc.
  • Don't provide the name or address of the original sender, which makes it impossible for you to check its authenticity. There are also exceptions in this case: some chain letters do mention the original sender's name or even his/her contact information, but this person either doesn't exist, or has nothing to do with the chain letter you've received.
    To track them down, use different means of contact to see if the sender really exists (hoax websites, the sender's website). Never contact directly the person who sent you the chain letter!
  • You are always asked to pass the chain letter on to all the friends in your contact list.
  • Chain letters usually play on people's sympathy or greed for money.

Do not forward chain letters! Ignore them!

None of the legitimate companies or persons sending a warning or a solicitation email will ever omit or neglect to offer complete contact information about themselves, to sign the letter or will ever ask you to forward the message.

Click here to view a chain letter sample


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