So, you received this heart-breaking letter which can't possibly be a fake because it's been written by this person on her/his dying bed. Or maybe you received this truly moving letter from the Pope himself. Or from the U.N., E.U., UNICEF, U.S. Government, or even more compelling, from Microsoft promising a commercial deal if you send this letter forward. Ah, yes, and then there's the letter saying you're prone to some horrible disease or disaster, should you fail to send it to quite a few friends/aquaintances.
How could all these people and organizations lie?! Or better yet, why would they possibly lie?
First off, the people who initiated the chain letters are NEVER the people or organizations they pretend to be. Really. Never. Use your mind, the girl who dies from leukemia, the Pope, UNICEF or Bill Gates wouldn't use such an ephemeron and unverified way to convey their message, be it humanitarian, religious, commerical or of any other nature. I can't stress this enough, use your own mind before deciding chain letters are genuine, and you'll be surprised to find that the reasons for sending a chain letter instead of setting up a web site are dubious 100% of the time. That is especially these days when even computer illiterate private people can get free web site space and can get a web site built for just a few dollars if they really have an active interest in that. Not to mention resourceful organizations, such as the Vatican, the U.S. Government or Microsoft.
Now that we established doubt, let's discuss reason (and no, I'm not a lawyer, not even remotely :-). Why would people start chain letters if they're not the Pope, the dying girl or whatever?
Because they can, and because it works. I know, this doesn't sound like a very compelling reason, but bear with me.
Really, that's all there is to it. Because they can, and because it works. Think about it this way, why do so many people take so much time to write computer viruses? Writing viruses is time consuming, illegal, and the authors can't get credit for it, except probably among their peers. Well, it's the same with chain letters, except chain letters are not even illegal, so the risk is lower. So then, why write viruses? Just as with the chain letters, because they find it amusing and rewarding that honest people will pass it along to other honest people who pass it along to other honest people, and so on, in a chain. So, who are these people after all?
Nobody. They are nobody. They're just some losers who don't have anything else to do but concoct these messages, send them to various people and "hope for the best". Hope for the best means they hope they get their own message back after it's been travelling in as large a circle as possible. That's why the most ambitious ones ask you to send a copy of the e-mail to a "witness" address which presumably gets you some money or brings you some other form of satisfaction, or ask you to visit a certain web site.
Let's now discuss what is a chain letter exactly. Or even better, let's dissect the most common types of chain letters and look at the "contagious" aspects of chain letters, the traits most probable in all chain letters.
Truth be said, the chain letters which ask you to go to a specific web addess or those which ask you to send a copy of the e-mail to a private address don't go very far because most people find them fishy exactly due to these reasons, so those letters tend to "die" on their own due to lack of dissemination.
Then there's this other kind, which asks you to send a copy e-mail to a legitimately official e-mail address, generally pretending you're "signing a petition" that way, getting you some financial benefit ("Microsoft will pay $0.05 to any person sending mail to this address"), or maybe helping someone ("for every mail received at this address, Microsoft will pay $0.01 for cancer research"), or any other kind of personal gratification. Again, use your mind, go to that web address and check out the legitimacy of those affirmations (check the indented paragraph below on how to check the e-mail address). You'll generally find that the legitimate web site has posted a link on their home page related to the "petition" or whatever you received, saying something along the lines of "[organization] did not initiate any petition/promotion/contest on this topic, we appreciate your concern/interest, but please send your comments to [e-mail address/postal address/physical office address/organization representative]", along with the understatement "please stop sending us junk e-mail we don't care about".
Then there's the kind of letters which don't ask for anything. They just tell a (generally) sad and touching story and say you should send them over to friends because... well, I'm not sure, maybe because the story is so heart-breaking that you have to ruin some friend's day too. And obviously by doing this you grant a person's dying wish, so you feel compelled to.
Finally, there's the threatening/rewarding kind of letter. "If you don't send this to ten friends, expect ten years of hardship" or "Nothing happens if you don't send this, but if you do send it, expect ten years of happiness". Obviously, your hardship/happiness occurs on a linear scale, depending on how many friends you send the letter to. Figures.
Chain letters are a plague for the Internet, just spam mail or viruses, but unfortunately honest people are tricked into sending chain letters voluntarily, so hopefully this can be stopped by spreading the information. BREAK THE CHAIN!
If you learned anything from this page, you should ask yourself why are we doing this -- how come you received our own chain letter. That's good, you should doubt the use of any kind of chain letter.
First, our letter has not been sent to you directly. We have sent a satirical letter to a few friends and business partners. Just like them, should you decide to send our letter further, that's your decision, we have absolutely nothing against that, the letter is not protected by any copyright, so you can do whatever you please. Then, you should note that the web address you received is truly genuine (you're reading data on our site). Also, please note this site is completely advertisment free, we're not doing this for money or whatever other reason than for stopping chain letters from spreading. If even a few of the people who receive the letter we sent stop from spreading other chain letters then quite a few chain links are broken, and that would mean our letter happened to really help stopping chain letters.
Please find other related resources below, quite a few people are trying to fight chain letters on the Internet:A page similar to this one, with a series of links, both funny and serious
This site and the chain letter pointing to it does not encourage any kind of pyramidal game of any sort. Any request to send money, place phone calls, send postcards or any other request involving the recipients to pay any amount of money on behalf of the letter originators is an alteration of the original. If you pay any amount of money to spread this specific information, you are doing it on your own behalf, we do not encourage you to do it. If in doubt, please check the original of the English version and of the Romanian version of our letter for comparison with the version you received.
While we are aware pyramidal schemes of any sort, including those indirectly asking receivers to spend money are illegal, we do not expect or accept any explicit or implicit payment directly or indirectly (including but not limited to advertisment) for this service.