Family and Friends,
I remember a time before computers were popular, but now I can't imagine a world without them. Through the magic of the internet, the world has indeed become smaller. What started as a system for military and scientific minds to easily communicate has become a wonderful tool to keep in contact with everyone you know. In the last few years we have been able to do so much more through the power of the internet than ever thought possible during its inception. Information that used to take days, weeks, even months to compile is readily available at your fingertips. Need a recipe for lasagna? Point your browser to a search engine of choice and ask away. Within seconds you will be graced with more variations than you could ever need. Without the internet you'd need a cookbook, or you'd have to call up a few people, hope that they were home, then scribble it all down. Thankfully, now you can just click "Print".
E-mail is a wonderful way to convey your thoughts and feelings to people, whether you know them or not. I don't even know half of the people I'm sending this to, but my wish is universal, and easily fulfilled by everyone. "Spam" what they call the e-mail equivalent of "junk mail". Spam accounts for 50-80% of all e-mail sent to inboxes in Europe. Spam cost $51.1 billion worldwide in 2005. It is usually applied to unwanted advertising, but is also the blanket term for any junk mail, and especially chain letters.
There are three red flags you should always be on the look out for:
1. The message has been "Forwarded" to dozens of people.
2. The message includes some fantastic, nearly unbelievable story.
3. The message concludes with "send this to as many people as you can..." or something similar.
If it meets two of these three flags: It's spam. Technically, it's what's called a spam chain letter.
The majority of these messages originated as mail (or what they like to call "snail mail" these days) in the form of chain letters in the 1950's and 1960's. Some of those evolved to fax scams in the 1980's, then to digital message boards and eventually e-mail in the 1990's. Most of them tug on heart strings or promise some sort great reward for doing nothing more than sending an e-mail out to all their friends. Some of these e-mail chain letters are new, having been thought up by some freak who gets a kick out of it, but there is also a more sinister reason.
The simple fact is this: I'm e-mailing you. How did I get your address? Thanks to the chain letters I've received, I have it. You see, unless the sender is careful a chain letter lists the e-mail addresses of everyone they're sending it to. But don't worry - I am no threat. I'm just a computer savvy guy who knows slightly more than the average computer user, and I have no interest in doing anything with the information I was unwittingly handed thanks to a silly chain letter. In the wrong hand, though, this could cause a lot of trouble. Identity theft is one of the biggest issues that can arise from just this sort of thing.
So, on to my wish, right? This coming New Years, I want everyone to make a resolution that they will make a conscious effort to just be a little more cautious about their computer usage, especially when it pertains to e-mail. When you get something that looks like a chain letter, regardless of how true it sounds, point your web browser to:
At the top of this page, you can type in a name or a phrase from the suspected e-mail chain letter to search. If it's a fake, they'll have information on it. If nothing comes up, head over to this site:
Again, you can search for a phrase or name from the e-mail. If it's fake, they'll tell you. As it says on their site: "If you forward chain letters, stop! If others send them to you, stop them! The more junk you send, the more you will get. Sending or receiving chain letters increases your exposure to spam, scams and other junk mail."
I thank you for your time, and hope that we can reach some level of understanding with this. I enjoy using the internet, and I hope others do too, but somewhere this all got out of hand. On average I receive 80 pieces of e-mail a day. About 75% of that is garbage. Please, for my sake and others, don't contribute to this garbage! If you get a chain letter, look it up. If it's fake, delete it. You might want to notify the person who sent it to you that it was fake, especially if it's someone you know (otherwise just let it go). On the rare occasion it's true, the decision is yours, but if you do send it around be sure to reference the site that told you (the exact link to the page saying it's true is great).
Please forward this to everyone you know. No, really... please do... but if you do, use BCC, or Blind Carbon Copy. This way everyone you send it to won't see all the addresses.
Andan Taldrya Marshall