This document contains the more traditional chain letters. Chain letters generally involve getting "luck" or money by sending out the letters and "bad luck" if you do not. They are easily recognizable as the same letters that 50 years ago traveled the paper mails and now have moved to the more modern medium of electronic mail. They claim all manner of warnings and dire notices of doom and gloom for your computer systems or for some poor soul somewhere, all of which will be saved if you just send this message on to all of your friends. Enter the world of the Internet chain letter. In the years before computers, chain letters were common and were sent by U.S. mail and required a stamp. This limited the extent to which chain letters were passed on, because sending them involved a real, up front cost in time to type the letters and money for stamps. The fact that most chain letters asked you to send a dollar to the top ten people in the chain caused most people to ignore them.

Today, with the click of a button, a message can be forwarded to hundreds of people at no apparent cost to the sender. If each of the so-called good Samaritans sends the letter on to only ten other people (most send to huge mailing lists), the ninth resending results in a billion e-mail messages, thereby, clogging the network and interfering with the receiving of legitimate e-mail messages. Factor in the time lost reading and deleting all these messages and you see a real cost to organizations and individuals from these seemingly innocuous messages.

Chain letters that ask you to send money are illegal under currrent Postal and Federal Trade Commission regulations. Even those that offer an inexpensive report or disk that people sell to you to get your money are also illegal pyramid schemes. See the US Postal Inspection Service information on chain letters, the presentation from Debra A. Valentine, General Counsel for the U. S. Federal Trade Commission "PYRAMID SCHEMES" and the FTC booklet FTC Consumer Alert! Profits in Pyramid Schemes? Don’t Bank on It! . All of these pages make it quite clear that schemes that attempt to get around the law by offering something relatively worthless in exchange for your money are still illegal under the law.


Mr. B