Email Chain Letters - Harmless Fun or Not?


I'm sure I'm not the only person on the planet that remembers getting the occasional chain letter in school.. you know, the kind that was actually written with a pen or pencil on paper that told you either something wonderful would happen or something terrible would happen or both if you did or didn't send out 20 copies within 7 days. Ugh. I still remember my fingers cramping as I tediously re-wrote the letter 20 times and the looks on my friends faces when they realized the note i just passed them was leading them to the same path of wasted paper.

Things have changed a lot since then;

Not just the venue has changed though, now we not only get poems with promises of good luck or threats of doom for not following instructions, we get petitions, promises of rewards from big companies, plea's to call your local government person because of some pending law that will be devastating to someone or something, and suggestions to boycott popular companies because of some alleged injustice they have performed. (Just imagine the phone calls these companies get!)

I get amusing chain letters in my email box occasionally mixed in with some urban legends and Christian Internet hoaxes for variety and before I knew better I'd give a little laugh, a roll of the eyes and pass it on to the 10 required friends with the promise that something good would happen in 10 days (or that I would escape a horrific tragedy)

Oh but then I learned. I learned about SPAM and about how to finally change my email address when it got overwhelming!

Perpetuating email chain letters is not a good idea. I read recently that most Internet service providers prohibit it in their terms of service... hmm... I will have to read those terms to see what else I'm not allowed to do! But it is with good reason that they have these rules.

You know the old 'phrase' I tell 2 friends and they tell 2 friends and they tell 2 friends... yada yada yada... well imagine what happens when you forward that silly email to your 20 friends and they each send it to their 20 friends... well already you've got 420 copies going out to cyberspace and taking up bandwidth and bogging down servers all over the place - especially if your 20 people are co-workers on the same email system!

What else is wrong with it? Well you've just added your name, or at least email address to a long and growing list of which you have no control over. This is like sending out an engraved invitation to spammers and scammers all over the world and suddenly the note from Aunt Joan is burried among 50 emails trying to sell you everything from viagra to stocks and bonds.

So what can you do? Well, the first and most obvious is delete it. But sometimes it's a cute story or a joke or some other reason to smile or chuckle and we all need some of that now and again so you want to forward it? Take these steps to do it safely.

After you've clicked forward go through the email, delete all the email addresses that are hanging on to the mail of all the people that have recieved it with you.

Leave only the portion of the email that you think is funny or cute and take out all the instructions to forward to 10 - 20 - or 50 people and what will happen if you don't

Use the bcc: field for the emails of the people you're going to send it to to keep their emails from being passed on if one of them chooses to forward it.

Finally, while I definately recommend against it, some people are just too superstisious to let a chain letter break. If you MUST continue a chain letter, still follow steps 1 and 3 above and get yourself a disposable email address for this purpose. Belive me, if you've never had to change your email address to get rid of the junk, you don't want to find out how fun it is! Remember, it's not just advising your friends and family and co-workers of the new email, but many of your online accounts use your email address if not for signing in, for getting lost passwords etc. How frustrating to go to get the status of some account and when you realize you can't remember the password the only option is to have it emailed to you and you didn't update the account!

So, get a disposable email address and use it for forwarding chain letters (if you have to) but also for signing up for things on the Internet! Then when the spam hits the fan, you can just delete the account and get a new one.

Lisa Campbell
Newbie Guide to CyberJunk

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