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.