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E-mail Hoaxes

Periodically, we get e-mails from friends and acquaintances who are forwarding information received from others. Often these e-mails are chain letters. E-mail hoaxes are very common. Practically anytime you get an e-mail that says you'll get money, or not to sit on a toilet in a certain restaurant, or you'll have good luck if you send it to x number of people, it's a hoax.

What Can It Hurt?


Besides gumming up e-mailboxes with untrue information, these chain letters can increase the chance of catching or unknowingly spreading an e-mail virus to thousands of people as the e-mail gets continually forwarded to new recipients.

E-mail Sharing

The privacy issue here is even more important: The repeat forwarding of these bogus messages violates our privacy by having our e-mail addresses shared with people we don't even know. You might notice when you receive a chain letter that there are a lot of e-mail addresses in the recipient list along with yours. Each time you click back to the previous message - in search of the "pot of gold" message - you will likely see many many more recipients. As you forward this to your friends and they forward the e-mail to their friends, you and your friends' e-mails are being shared with total strangers.


Wonder how so many marketing companies get your e-mail address to send you spam? This is one way.

More Victims

Some chain letters are malicious in that the original message includes names, phone numbers, or other personal information for innocent people. It is aggravating and sometimes devastating for victims whose personal information gets put in these "joke" e-mails to field resulting phone calls or deal with other privacy violations.

How to Stop Hoaxes

You can help stop hoaxes by NOT forwarding these chain letters. If you are unsure if an e-mail is a hoax, type a few critical lines from the message into a search engine and see what you find.