Chain Letters used to be very common in the days before home computing, as physical letters. These do still exist but almost all chain letters these days are by email.
We’ve all received email chain letters – urgent messages that warn us of computer viruses, social media fraud, money making opportunities, urgent charity requests etc. While these emails will exhort you to add your name and forward them to other people – DO NOT. Press the Delete button instead.
Some chain letters them can be amusing or sent for fun, but others may contain security threats – viruses or phishing attempts etc.
In recent years, they have appeared on social media as well. Some are carefully crafted and similar to the letters but some are very different, consisting of just a few lines directly pitching Money for Nothing unashamedly. It is surprising that people fall for these such obvious frauds but some do. Unfortunately people are so used on social media to just retweeting or reposting without thought that these frauds can circulate quickly.
There are 5 main categories of chain letter:-
- A sick child. A story about how the child needs expensive treatment that the parents cannot afford. The message asks you to donate and to pass on the message so more people can donate.
- Fake warnings. Warnings that Facebook accounts can all be hacked within seconds or that a new virus is spreading or that an email with a specified title can wipe out all of your files etc.
- Big money. A promise of a large financial reward if you take a list of specified steps. This is backed up by a celebrity name e.g. Bill Gates recommends this or Beyonce swears by this etc. Sign up and also your friends but only if you act fast.
- This can be a petition for something obvious such as ban all whaling or can be something very specific. In any case, the idea is to get your name and address which can then be used for a variety of fraudulent purposes.
- These used to be very common but less so nowadays. The idea is to threaten bad luck if you don’t pass on the message.
Adding your name and details to any email then forwarding it is dangerous as that information can be used for identity theft. Do not give out such information to someone you don’t know.
How to avoid these internet security threats and keep yourself, your kids and your friends safe
- The first pointer that it’s a chain letter you are receiving – either from a respected institution or from a friend – is the number of recipients and the request to send the letter to more people. If you receive such a letter, delete it or ignore it.
- Do not fall for great news from wealthy people or big companies that are spreading via e-mail or social networks only. If the news were really true, the entire media, including newspapers, TV, radio etc. would be buzzing with official statements.
- Don’t fall for fake petitions, surveys, or charity donations. If it’s about handing over your personal information and giving away money, verify the recipient first. Do some research and make sure the institution/person who asks you for them is authentic/real.
If you have any experiences with scammers, spammers or time-waster do let me know, by email.