This web site was copied prior to January 20, 2005. It is now a Federal record managed by the National Archives and Records Administration. External links, forms, and search boxes may not function within this collection.
Everybody's received them
- chain letters or email messages that promise
a big return on a small investment. The
promises include unprecedented good luck,
mountains of recipes, or worse, huge financial
rewards for sending as little as $5 to someone
on a list or making a telephone call. The
simplest chain letters contain a list of
names and addresses, with instructions to
send something - usually a small sum of
money - to the person at the top of the
list, remove that name from the list, and
add your own name to the bottom of the list.
Then, the instructions call for you to mail
or email copies of the letter to a certain
number of other people, along with the directions
of how they should "continue the chain."
The theory behind chain letters is that
by the time your name gets to the top of
the list, so many people will be involved
that you'll be inundated with whatever the
chain promises to deliver. One recently
circulated email chain letter promised earnings
of "$50,000 or more within in the next
90 days of sending email." Whether
you receive a chain letter by regular mail
or email - especially one that involves
money - the Federal Trade Commission (FTC)
reminds you that:
Chain letters that involve money or
valuable items and promise big returns
are illegal. If you start one or send
one on, you are breaking the law.
Chances are you will receive little
or no money back on your "investment."
Despite the claims, a chain letter will
never make you rich.
Some chain letters try to win your confidence
by claiming that they're legal, and even
that they're endorsed by the government.
Nothing is further from the truth.
If you've been a target of a chain email
scam, contact your Internet Service Provider
and forward the email to the FTC at email@example.com.
The FTC works for the consumer to prevent fraudulent, deceptive
and unfair business practices in the marketplace and to provide information
to help consumers spot, stop, and avoid them. To file a
complaint or to get free
information on consumer issues, visit www.ftc.gov
or call toll-free, 1-877-FTC-HELP (1-877-382-4357); TTY: 1-866-653-4261. The
FTC enters Internet, telemarketing, identity theft, and other fraud-related
Consumer Sentinel, a secure, online database available to hundreds of civil
and criminal law enforcement agencies in the U.S. and abroad.