I am getting far too many virus warning emails and scam chain letters in my email inbox and there’s obviously a lot of well meaning people out there who think they are trying to help, but who don’t really understand the impact of passing these messages on. Feel free to ignore this post if you are already aware of this issue, but I thought I would take the opportunity to explain why you should NEVER pass on an email that specifically asks you to.
1. It’s a hoax. It doesn’t matter what the warning or content of the message is, the goal is to get you to pass on the email.
2. Most of the heartwrenching stories about sick children are completely untrue and many have used the names of real charities, resulting in those charities having to dedicate precious resources to dealing with the resulting problems.
3. You actually increase the risk of real viruses getting through to everyone you pass these email messages on to – a real virus will often try to send itself to every email address it encounters on someone’s computer. You send a warning email to me and my email address is then present on all the computers of all the people you passed this email on to. So is yours!
4. Unless you used a private emailing method, when you pass on these emails, it’s likely you’re sharing private email data without permission and that could land you in various kinds of trouble.
5. Some people have bandwith limits with their ISP and this kind of thing clogs up their email inbox, preventing real and important messages getting through
There are websites where you can check out the details of such messages if you’re worried, and you should always check for yourself before sending it to anyone, even if it says in the message content that it is verified by a genuine hoax checking site.
Here’s a few websites that we use to check out anything like this:
And here’s a little of what the Virus Bulletin website has to say on the subject:
Chain letters are all too familiar to most email users. Emails instructing recipients to ‘forward to 10 other people’, or even ‘forward to everyone you know’, have been circulating since the early days of the internet. Many of them are little changed since that time, while some introduce new themes and fresh topics.
Some carry serious messages and tragic stories, often accompanied by improbable claims that money will somehow be raised for the subject of the story, courtesy of some kind philanthropist or corporation. Some promise incredible rewards for those who pass on the message. Some feature full-blown scams, instructing recipients to pass on personal data or even cash as part of the process. Others spread unlikely urban myths and hoaxes, many of which have featured computer viruses.
The common attribute of all these emails is the appeal to forward the message to many people. However, such an action – no matter how well-meaning – is not helpful. Aside from the increased network load, adding to the flooding of inboxes with unwanted spam email, another unwanted consequence is the forwarding of large numbers of email addresses, thanks to the common use of simple forwarding and cc features. Some chain letters may have been set up for the very purpose of gathering email data in this way, for use in spamming. Another result is that the hoax becomes ‘well known’ and listed on pages such as these. This fame (of sorts) no doubt leads to some degree of satisfaction for the hoax perpetrator, encouraging them to continue spreading such dubious chain mails.
Now, if you have read all that and are now cringing with embarrassment because you have sent on something like this, don’t worry. I know that they are sent with good intent and I hold my hand up and admit that years ago, before I knew better, I too forwarded messages like this to my friends thinking that they would be grateful. If you’re fairly new to the Internet or to using email, how are you supposed to know about these things if no one tells you?
Hopefully this information will go a little way to keeping all of our inboxes less cluttered and our hard disks less vulnerable. I shall get down off the cyber-soapbox now and go back to my UTEE …