Chain letters and hoax e-mails

This post is more than 18 years old.

Posted at 09:32 on 10 October 2005

I got another chain letter today in my e-mail. This particular one was about a girl who apparently lost her parents in the tsunami last December. It turns out that she was reunited with her parents months ago so the message was true, but grossly outdated.

It’s the first one I’ve had for a while, so I thought I’d better put down some advice on what to do with things like this.

A chain letter is anything that tells you to forward it to other people. Often they appeal to your emotions to get you to do so. They come in a variety of forms: virus warnings, appeals for help or prayer, petitions, and so on.

Most of them are either untrue or out of date–some of them by many years. Furthermore, some of them were started with malicious intent, e.g. to harass somebody or to compile a list of valid e-mail addresses for spammers. In every case they clog up Internet bandwidth and waste the recipient’s time.

So you should never forward them, no matter what the subject.

If you are concerned about the subject matter (e.g. virus warnings) you could forward it to your IT support staff or one knowledgeable friend to check out. You could also check out one of the websites that deal with hoaxes and urban legends such as HoaxBusters and Urban Legends.