What to do when it says forward to everyone you know

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- the Red Myth

It's not what you think...
just that you think!

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You just got an email - probably from someone you know - that says you should forward it to everyone you know.
What do you do now?
  • Take a deep breath.
  • Relax!
What you just got is likely pure junk. (99 and 44/100% chance)
But it's an important warning from a friend, you say!

Yes, its from a friend who has good intentions, but we all know what good intentions pave.

If it had come outside in your old-fashion mailbox would you really copy it and send it to everyone you know?
If you did it would be illegal because it, just like the electronic version, is called a chain letter.
It has likely been circulating in cyber-space for years and even if it was true at one time, is now so out of date it doesn't matter.

A sample:  Who wouldn't want to help find a missing child.  Such is the Penny Brown hoax (from late 2001 and still going around). This email includes a picture and text which includes a contact name, phone, and maybe an email.  The contact is usually a real person who knows nothing about the girl or the hoax.  Did I mention that Penny Brown is not missing and never was!  And if at this point you are still worried about the missing Penny Brown don't.  I have found her.  She is all grown up and now a doctor!  OK, so I have no idea if this is the same person as the picture, but her name is Penny Brown and she kinda looks like the girl in the picture who WAS NEVER MISSING!

If you are still concerned about the information in the email then check the sites below, they likely have already seen it and checked it out.
(Note:  some of these sites use pop-up advertising)(links open in new windows - Not responsible for the content of any outside links) Others may be found at:
Google Directory: Society > Issues > Fraud > Internet > Chain Letters   or up a level Google Directory: Society > Issues > Fraud > Internet

And of course you could answer the email by sending them back the link to this site!
Real missing children.  National Center for Missing & Exploited Children     (you could add this link as part of your signature file)

A more subtle chain-letter received Jun. 2003 (and only Hoaxbusters has it listed so far)

This is really interesting how someone did this.:
He's walking around the world - via e-mail!! Pass it on so he can get there!
walking man nothing more than an animated gif
And it might have been incredible 20 years ago but it is much simpler than you might think at first.
There are a number of programs that take an image and convert it to text. If you take a series of these you have an animation.
So this is nothing more than an animated gif file rolled into some HTML instead of as an attachment which would make it more obvious.

Then it really is the exact same thing as those annoying banner ads that shake or flash or some other animation and nothing more!

“Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain.” - The Wizard of Oz

A rough example done quickly and based on a Eadweard Muybridge study.
greyhound animated gif
An online gif to text (and back) converter
What about warnings based on truth.  Like the email about how water heated in the microwave can explode?  Truth is the water doesn't explode but can boil violently when something is added to it or it is moved, but as well meaning as this email is if we were to email a warning about every way something can be misused, like heating water much longer than recommended or holding a cup of scalding hot coffee in a paper cup between our legs, then the inbox of everyone would be so clogged that no one would ever use email again.
Then there is the scam called the "Nigerian Advance Fee Fraud Scheme" (or 419).  Existed before the Web, but people still fall for this and other variations of the classic pidgeon drop.  Baciscally goes like this.  I found this bag with a lot of money.  I need to put it someplace safe because ________.  I'll give part of it if you'll help me out.  But since I don't really know you I need a sign of good faith.  Let's go to your bank and you can give me your money and then you get to hold the bag.  Sounds stupid explained this way doesn't it.  But people fall for this all the time.  Don't be one of them.  Don't be "left holding the bag".  Learn more about the "Nigerian Advance Fee Fraud Scheme" at the US SecretService.gov site.

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