* Legitimate businesses do NOT advertise via spamming (sending
unsolicited bulk e-mail ads -- e-junkmail). If you actually try to buy
something from one of the fly-by-night frauds that does engage in this
practice you are simply throwing away money. If you send one of these
people your credit card number, or anything else for that matter, you
*deserve* to get ripped off and added to 1200 spam mailing lists. And
you will. If you have not personally dealt with the company in
question before, satisfactorily, you have ZERO reason to trust them.
Don't. And If you think you'll get rich advertising something via
spamming, you are in for an unpleasant surprise. You'll probably get
enough death threats to keep you having nightmares for months, and
it'll be a miracle if your Internet access is not revoked by your Net
service provider, with no refund, within about 15 minutes.
* Big companies don't do business via chain letter. Disney is not giving
you a free vacation, you will not receive a free case of M&Ms, and
neither Old Navy nor the GAP will send you a coupon. Likewise, there
isn't any baby food company issuing class-action checks. Microsoft, AOL
and Intel are not giving you money to send e-mail. No companies can
tell who you are or aren't sending mail to. The Net simply does not
work that way. You'd have no privacy at all if it did. And there is no
Nigerian former general who'll make you rich if you send some money to
help him out in the short term. If you have not PERSONALLY (i.e., you,
yourself) verified the wacky promotional or investment scheme you've
heard about with those allegedly responsible for it, you have no reason
to believe in it. Don't.
* Just because someone said in the message, several forwarding
generations back, "we checked it out and it's legit", does not
actually make it true. The twit that wrote the hoax (and the
"we checked it out" lie) is practically peeing him/herself from
laughing so hard at everyone falling for it.
* If you ever get some kind of newsy tidbit off the net that generates
a "wow, this is unbelievable" first reaction in you, trust that
instinct. If it sounds too good, bad, or weird to be true, it probably
is. Don't forward it around unless YOU verify it with trustable
sources; otherwise it's almost certainly b.s. Even if the latest
NASA rocket disaster(s) DID contain plutonium that went to particulate
over the eastern seaboard, do you REALLY think this information would
reach the public via an e-chainletter? Same goes for flesh-eating bacteria
in bananas, and the "Klingerman virus" spreading like wildfire (it doesn't
exist). A health risk that huge would be on every news show on every
channel already, if it were real. You are not Walter Cronkite, and the
world is definitely not looking to you to provide them with unverified
* Always be skeptical. Be
extremely skeptical between March 25 and
April 10. And if you pass on some incredible story that is actually
dated April Fool's Day, you deserve every bit of abuse you're going
to get. Speaking of holidays, we don't need your Christmas forwards,
* Craig Shergold in England is not dying of cancer or anything else at
this time and would like everyone to stop sending their business cards
and get-well-soon e-mail (to him, or to any foundation, hospital or
other institution). He apparently is also no longer a "little boy". He
DID get into the Guinness Book of World Records -- several years ago --
for having received the most letters in the world, and the daily
bulging bags of cards and letters is a curse he and his family
desperately want to be rid of. The dying kid story just isn't true, and
this fact of e-life also goes for Greg Sherman, Kraig Shumacher, Chris
Sherwood and all the other (non-existent) dying kids mentioned in a slew
of hoaxes based on the original Shergold posts. And it still won't
be true even if it looks like it came from the National Cancer Institute
or the Make-a-Wish Foundation. These are both real institutions doing
fine work, but they are as tired of this as we all are. The latter
organization has had to establish a special toll free hotline in
response to the large number of Internet hoaxes abusing their good name
and reputation. It is distracting them from the important work they do.
Don't be part of the problem.
* Neiman Marcus doesn't really sell a $200 cookie recipe. And even if
they did, we all have it. And even if you don't, you can get a copy at:
Then, if you make the recipe, and decide the cookies are that awesome,
feel free to pass the recipe on. Without the silly (and false) story
attached to it.
* There is no "modem tax" and there is no "bill 604p". Neither the
Postal Service, the Federal Trade Commission, the Federal
Communications Commission, nor Congress (nor the Canadian, UK, or
Australian parliamentary bodies) have any intention of imposing a tax,
tarriff or surcharge on Internet or e-mail access. Your state public
utilities commission isn't going to do it either. ISPs are NOT going
to be charged long distance fees, nor will they pass this entirely
imaginary cost onto consumers. If you see alerts about something like
this, DELETE THEM, and tell the senders and all other recipients that
it is a hoax. If something like this really did happen, it'd be in
the newspaper, and you'd see bulletins from known, verifiable
consumer organizations (probably beginning, "We know this sounds like
that old 'modem tax' hoax...")
* If an action alert seems even slightly plausible, ask yourself
whether you can tell what organization or individual issued it.
Is there evidence to support the claims? Is the alert also posted
on their Web site with documentation to back it up? Would you risk
your own reputation by relying on the accuracy of what you've just
read? For more information on what to look for in a legitimate action
alert, and how to write one, see here:
* IF THE MESSAGE IS IN ALL CAPS, LIKE THIS and it isn't from your
grandparents, just delete it immediately. It was written by some brat
prankster who doesn't quite know how to type yet.
* If a message says anything to the effect of "this won't work unless
you send it to at least 15 people", "you must copy this urgent action
alert to EVERYONE you know", "this game won't work unless you send
this e-snowball to everyone in your addressbook" or "please send this
message to all your friends and family", the message is trash.
Delete it now. It is stupid nonsense authored by an undersocialized
nimrod with no friends, who is hoping to prey on your gullibility.
You will not get a secret surprise (other than loss of friends because
you keep sending them junkmail) for forwarding 11 copies of a joke or
motivational message. (While the Net can't magically track your e-mail
habits and reward you for spamming your acquaintances and family, it's
too bad you can't be punished for it...)
* Don't you DARE forward "luck" chain letters, or any other kind of chain
letter. We don't care how superstitious you are. You can relax;
there is no need to pass the chain letter on "just in case it's true".
These hoax chain letters exist to waste Net resources and people's time,
nothing more. If you are one of those insufferable idiots who forwards
anything that promises "something bad will happen if you don't re-send
this", be aware that something bad will happen to you if you don't
stop -- like losing friends, losing your Internet access by violating
your ISP's Net abuse rules, having your mailbox flooded with angry
responses, etc. Do you REALLY believe that some dork in Idaho cranking
out annoying, menacing chain letters (or friendly, but even more
annoying, "God loves you and will grant your prayer" chain letters)
actually has the mystical ability to affect the course of your future?
In that case, SEND ME $100 *RIGHT NOW* or your nose hair will grow to
be 50 feet long! If you do not do this within 24 hours, your eyeballs
will pop out of your head and sing Disney songs that summon a score of
demonic vampire children to suck your blood! If you DO comply, you
will become President in two weeks, and will sit at the right hand of
God himself! For real! OBEY! OBEY! OBEY!
* Speaking of chain letters, please learn this and know it: pyramid
scams DO NOT WORK. "Multi-level marketing" (MLM) scams DO NOT WORK.
You will NOT make money. Such chain letters are actually illegal
in many places. Don't participate in them.
* There is no kidney theft ring in New Orleans or Mexico. No one is
waking up in a bathtub full of ice, even if a friend of a friend
swears it happened to their cousin. If you are hellbent on believing
the kidney-theft ring stories, please see:
"The National Kidney Foundation has repeatedly issued
requests for actual victims of organ thieves to come
forward & tell their stories. None have."
That's "none," as in "ZERO". Not even your friend's supposed cousin.
It all comes from a rather lackluster Miguel Ferrer movie. FICTION.
* There is no "Good Times" virus. In fact, you should never, ever,
forward any e-mail containing any virus warning unless you first
confirm it at the Web site of a company or organization that actually
deals with viruses and computer security problems. Try:
And even then, don't forward it. We don't care, and it won't help.
(The "I Love You" virus did amazing amounts of damage in a matter of a
day or two, despite the fact that everybody and their dog were spamming
every address in their e-addressbooks with virus warnings about it).
And especially don't forward warnings about viruses so bad they destroy
your hard drive as soon as you download them. There is no such thing,
or every computer on the planet would be toast by now. The simplest
way to avoid e-mail viruses is to simply never open attachments that
come from people you don't know and trust.
* We all know exactly how many engineers, blondes, college students,
Usenet posters and people from each and every world ethnicity it takes
to change a lightbulb. We also already know 100 ways to drive your
roommates crazy, irritate co-workers, gross out bathroom stall
neighbors and creep out people on an elevator. We don't care if you
are laughing so hard you may have ruptured your spleen. EVERYONE ELSE
HAS ALREADY SEEN THAT JOKE 10 TIMES THIS WEEK, no matter how new it is
to you. If you must pass it on, tell it at the bar, at school, at your
job, or some other offline place. (But be prepared for "Yeah, yeah, I
read that one years ago in e-mail".) If you've been on the Net for
at least 5 years and are certain it's new and you insist on e-mailing
it again, your "Bcc:" list had better be short or you're going to lose
aquaintances/victims faster than you can replace them.
* And on a similar note, if your "Cc:" list is regularly longer than
the actual content of your message, you're probably going to be
punished eternally. (Ever heard of "Bcc:"?) Spammers (junk e-mailers)
love it when you do big "Cc:" lists. They eventually get a copy and
send you and everyone else on the list copies of their wonderful
ads for "CHEAP LAZER PRINTER TONER!!!" and "HOT NEKKID BARELY-LEGAL
BABES WAITIN FOR U!!!". Just don't go there. Some background for the
very new e-mail user: "Cc:" means "carbon-copy", i.e. "send a copy of
this message to these people (victims) as well as to the recipient(s)
on the 'To:' line, and let all recipients know who else has received a
copy". The "Bcc:" means "blind carbon-copy", i.e. "send copies to all
of these victims, but at least spare them the horror of giving every
recipient every other recipient's e-mail addresses". If sending to
multiple parties who are not already acquaintances with eachother, it
is generally pretty darned rude and invasive to use "Cc:" (or multiple
recipients in the "To:" header) instead of "Bcc:". Imagine someone
giving your phone number and home address to everyone that they know
but you don't. Get it? PS: If you use "Bcc:", you leave the "To:"
header *empty*. Don't put the first recipient's address in there. You
don't even have to put yours -- when 90% of your recipients get angry
at you for sending them re-hashed junk e-mail and want to send you
angry responses, they can find your address in the "From:" header.
Your e-mail software automatically includes that information - perhaps
for purposes of accountability and poetic justice.
* If you're using Outlook, Microsoft Mail, Netscape, Eudora or
other fancy software to write email, turn off "HTML encoding", "Send
e-mail as HTML", "format=flowed", "multimedia e-mail", "stationery" and
other so-called features. Those of us with nice, simple e-mail programs
that adhere to actual Internet standards can't read it, and don't care
enough to save your huge file attachments or inlined bandwidth-sucking
multimedia garbage, and then view it with a Web browser or image viewer.
Especially since you're probably just forwarding us a copy of the naked
Santa Claus picture we've all seen 50 times already. While you're at it,
turn off so-called "smart quotes" (a.k.a. "curly quotes"). They look
like gibberish on every other operating system, since the codes
to generate those characters are not standardized in any way.
* In the same vein, if your
e-mail software gives you the option to
send "vCards", ".vcf files", "e-business cards" or any other
auto-generated and long-winded signature file attachment, it's a
really bad idea, brought to you by IBM and a consortium of database
companies. The idea was so bad, the consortium has folded. TURN IT
OFF. If we want the online equivalent of your business card, we'll
ask you for your contact information personally. Please remember that
your little 15 kilobyte vCard is a 1.5 (or 15!) MEGAbyte pile of vCards
when you post to a big mailing list. And consider the fact that anyone
who regularly gets your e-mail will end up with 10, 100, 1000 copies of
your wretched vCard eventually. Hardly anyone still has software that
can even read vCards anyway. Just stop. We all beg you.
* Speaking further of attachments, the rest of the world does not own
a computer just like yours. AVI movies can be generated by any number
of encoders that a lot of other people don't have. And just because you
get a kick out of watching a fake CNN broadcast of the President
getting a hummer on YOUR machine doesn't automatically mean that the
file will be of any interest to, or even viewable by, any of the
recipients on your Bcc list. (You ARE using Bcc, right?) Same goes for
.BMP files. If we see one more mock postage stamp with Clinton behind
bars, someone's going to die. Add in the fact that attachments like
this take an eternity to download from a standard e-mail account, and take
up wads of space in the mailbox, and you might begin to see the point. If
not, hopefully someone you've bombarded with this junk will happily return
everything you send three or four times until you do. If the size of your
message is in double digits, you're making a mistake. If you MUST share
the multimedia files you think are funny with everyone whose e-mail
address you have, just put it on the Web, and send people the URL.
(Beginners: a URL is that "http://www.whatever.com/directory/filename"
kind of address that people use to locate something on the Web.)
* Same goes for .EXE files (i.e. Windows programs). Contrary to what
Mr. Gates tells you, the entire world hasn't bought the stuff he's
selling. These things don't run on Macintosh or Unix systems.
* If you still absolutely MUST forward that 10th-generation message
from a friend, at least have the decency to trim the eight miles of
headers showing everyone else who's received it over the last 6
months. It sure wouldn't hurt to get rid of all the ">" quoting that
begins each line. Besides, if it has gone around that many times,
we've all already seen it. Twice. At least.
* If you're replying to something on a mailing list, send the reply
to the author of the message you are replying to, not the whole list,
unless you're sure that the vast majority of people on the list will
actually be interested in your response. And don't quote the entire
original message. Cut out the material that is not directly relevant
to what you have to say. Almost nothing is more irritating than
a reply, reading "Me, too!" to a message that was 100 lines long,
with all 100 lines quoted in the reply at the top before the one-liner
response. Fortunately, some news readers and list management software
won't even LET you make posts like that any more.
* You do NOT need to put more than one exclamation point in a subject
line. Not only is it ungrammatical (i.e., stupid-looking), it will
trigger the spam filter of many seasoned Internet users, and your message
will end up discarded, unread. Just about the only mail that has "!!!"
anywhere in the subject line is: a) junk e-mail trying to steal your
credit card number; b) a bad cookie recipe, fake virus warning, joke
everyone was tired of in 4th grade, etc., forwarded by someone who should
know better; or c) an blathering message from an annoying yokel inlaw who
just discovered the Internet and who got your e-mail address from your
cousin. In any case, you probably don't want read it if it has more
than one "!" in the subject.
* Forget e-mail "petitions". Yes, women really are suffering in
Afghanistan, PBS and NEA funding are still vulnerable to periodic
attack, and this and that endangered species are still endangered. But
forwarding an e-mail won't help any such cause in the least. If you
want to help, contact your local legislative representative, or get in
touch with Amnesty International, the Red Cross, the World Wildlife
Fund, or another relevant organization. E-petition "signatures" are
easily faked and mean NOTHING to anyone with any power to do anything
about whatever the wanna-be "petition" is complaining about. E-mail
petitions are not legally valid, and a waste of everyone's time and
energy. If you really care, and you're not just trying to make yourself
feel better without actually doing anything, then get outdoors and start
a REAL petition.
* BOTTOM LINE: Composing e-mail or posting something to discussion
groups is as easy as writing on the walls of a public restroom. Don't
automatically believe something unless you have real evidence of its
truth. ASSUME it's false, unless there is proof that you can see for
yourself. And don't perpetuate bad habits. Get it? Got it? Good!
* Now, COPY AND PASTE this message to ten friends and you will win the
Publishers Clearinghouse sweepstakes, you'll get all your taxes back,
you'll get propositioned by that hottie you don't have guts to say hi
to, your car will run fine for the next ten years with no maintenance,
you'll get that magic credit card that will fix your money problems,
and that funny growth on your chin will go away... Or maybe NOT.
[Prepared and updated as an unofficial service of the Electronic
Frontier Foundation to the Internet community, by Stanton McCandlish,
co-author of "Protecting Yourself Online" and co-developer of the
effective and verifiable online action alert format. This document is
based on an anonymous original version dating to some time around
1998, plus a variety of also anonymously-produced alternate versions,
and, finally, updated to reflect new widespread hoaxes, chain letters,
and frauds. The humorously sarcastic tone of the original has been
preserved. This version Copyright 1999-2001, Electronic Frontier
Foundation; redistributable at will provided it is not modified. If you
want to make your own version for whatever reason, please start from