The History of a Chain E-Mail.

[Spam: the luncheon meat] E-mail, because of it's exemptions from mail fraud laws and lack of expense compared to the postal service, has become fertile breeding ground for a various number of frauds, hoaxes, and junk mailing lists.

I mention this because I have received in my inbox recently, yet another generation of one of these unsavory letters. I dismay that there are some people in the world who actually take these letters seriously!   Yet, as a man of science, I have taken it upon myself to present a conjectural analysis how this hoax has maintained its durability and popularity. 

I present for your inspection, "The E-mail Tracking Scam," one of the most prevalent email hoaxes in the history of the modern web, and still going strong after almost half a decade.

Origins:  Tuesday, 18 Nov 1997 13:47:32 -0600

A computer student at Iowa State University was exchanging jokes via e-mail while doing homework in a computer lab that night.  One joke was a fake email (Exhibit A) with a ridiculous story about an impossible scheme.  The recipient thought it was so funny that he sent it to a few of his friends and they all had a huge laugh.  And then... as close friend passed it to close friend, somewhere down the line it reached someone who didn't realize the joke and a wildfire started over which the originator had absolutely no control...

 


Exhibit A: A not-so-humble beginning


>> >Date: Tue, 18 Nov 1997 13:47:32 -0600
>> >Subject: bill gates here
>> >
>>
>>Hello everybody,
>> >My name is Bill Gates. I have just written up an e-mail tracing program
>> that traces everyone to whom this message is forwarded to. I am
>> experimenting with this and I need your help. Forward this to everyone you
>> know and if it reaches 1000 people everyone on the list will receive $1000
>> at my expense. Enjoy.
>> >Your friend,
>> >Bill
>Gates
>>
>>

[E-mail historians take note: This e-mail was  meant as a private joke between two friends, cf. the more complete header at the end of this page. Note the small reward offered by "Gates," the (now) unthinkably small goal, the unsophisticated drafting, and shortness of the letter. Obviously not a time-consuming composition and sent off the cuff.]


Exhibit B: A life of its own


Subject: Re: FW: PLEASE READ! YOULL BE GLAD YOU DID! (fwd)
Date: Fri, 6 Feb 1998 14:41:23 +0000
>>>> >>>    > FROM: GatesBeta@microsoft.com
>>>> >>>    > ATTACH: Tracklog@microsoft.com/Track883432/~TraceActive/On.html
>>>> >>>    >
>>>> >>>    > Hello Everyone,
>>>> >>>    > And thank you for signing up for my Beta Email Tracking Application or
>>>> >>>    >(BETA)for short. My name is Bill Gates. Here at Microsoft we have just
>>>> >>>    >compiled an e-mail tracing program that tracks everyone to whom this
>>>> >>>    >message is forwarded to. It does this through an unique IP (Internet
>>>> >>>    >Protocol) address log book database. We are experimenting with this and
>>>> >>>    >need your help. Forward this to everyone you know and if it reaches
>>>> >>>    >1000 people everyone on the list you will receive $1000 and a copy of
>>>> >>>    >Windows98 at my expense. Enjoy.
>>>> >>>    >
>>>> >>>    > Note: Duplicate entries will not be counted. You will be notified by
>>>> >>>    >email with further instructions once this email has reached 1000 people.
>>>> >>>    >Windows98 will not be shipped unitl it has been released to the general
>>>> >>>    >public.
>>>> >>>    >
>>>> >>>    > Your friend,
>>>> >>>    > Bill Gates & The Microsoft Development Team. >>
>>>> >>>    >
>>>> >>>    >

[Take note again: As the E-mail spent four months being passed around, various people added artistic and literary modifications, much as the Homeric bards altered the epic poems with each telling. Yet, the e-mail still claims to be as fresh as the day it began. Notice that the letter was updated to follow the development of new technology, like Windows 98, and that the ante for each person is on the rise. The addition of the Microsoft Development team, the fake header lines, and the acronym show increased thought and sophistication of the spammers. However, closer inspection reveals the blatant misspelling of "until", and also shows that the fake header file is actually a meaningless cross between an e-mail address and a web address, showing that the spammers really have no real understanding of the technology that they are abusing.]

 


Exhibit C: E-mail from FantasyLand


> >Date: Mon, 24 Aug 1998 08:49:05 -0700
> >To: alexand
> >From: Jennifer Alexander <alexand>
> >Subject: Let's all go to Disney World
> >
> >I did call Disney -  and they say it is true.  Send this to everyone
> you
> >know!
> >>>Disney message & $5,000.00
> >>>
> >>>If you read below you will see the note from Walt
> >>>Disney Jr. & Management at Disney World.
> >>>Basically if this messages reaches 13,000 people,
> >>>everyone will receive $5,000.00 or a free, all expenses paid, trip
> >>>to Disney World in anytime during the summer of 1999.
> >>>
> >>>See the note below - its worth it!!!!
> >>>
> >>>Everyone is to resend to 15 individuals.
> >>>Please read and forward to as many friends as
> >>>possible...we've checked up on
> >>>this and this is no joke of a chain letter or something
> >>>if this reaches 13,000 people...duplicate entries don't
> >>>count, though...So, please help & pass on...
> >>>thank you, and here you  go!!!
> >>>
> >>>WALT DISNEY JR. GREETING
> >>>
> >>>Hello Disney fans,
> >>>
> >>>And thank you for signing up for Bill Gates' Beta
> >>>Email Tracking My name is Walt Disney Jr.
> >>>Here at Disney we are working with Microsoft which has just
> >>>compiled an e-mail tracing program that tracks everyone
> >>>to  whom this message is forwarded to. It does this
> >>>through an unique IP (Internet Protocol) address log book database.
>
> >>>We are experimenting with this  and need your help.  Forward this
> >>> to everyone you know and if it reaches 13,000 people, 1,300 of the
> >>>people on the list will receive $5,000, and the rest will receive a
> free
> >>>tripfor two to Disney World for one week during the  summer of 1999
>
> >>>at our expense. Enjoy.
> >>>
> >>>Note: Duplicate entries will not be counted. You will
> >>>be notified by email with further instructions once this email
> >>>has reached 13,000 people.
> >>>Your friends,
> >>>Walt Disney Jr., Disney, Bill Gates, & The Microsoft
> >>>Development Team.

[Historians take note: This rendition has gone completely overboard. The testimonial at the beginning is a nice touch, but a little on the cheesy side. And the addition of Walt Disney into the mix just makes the whole thing incredulous (not to mention that Disney Jr. isn't actually in charge of Disney). This is like one of those Publisher's Clearing House sweepstakes that isn't really Publisher's Clearing House. As if we would believe it anyway, it has completely crossed the line of fantasy. Yet despite its surrealism, this has proven the most believable of the three e-mails so far, since it has been passed around by a greater number of people who actually believe that this spam tells the truth. Note the higher stakes promised, and the complex contest rules that have been added.]

 


Exhibit D: A Hoax Comes of Age in a Corporate World


-On Tuesday, October 26, 1999, 8:54 AM -0500 

>> -----Original Message-----
>> Sent: Tuesday, October 26, 1999 8:44 AM
>> Subject: FW: Check this out quickly and respond!
>>
>> If there is the slightest possibility of this being for real, I'll pass it
>> on. Doesn't take much time and no money so I'll see if it's a hoax.
>>
>> > ----- Original Message -----
>> > Sent: Saturday, October 23, 1999 9:38 PM
>> > Subject: Fw: Check this out quickly and respond!
>> >
>> >
>> > > This sounds like another "too good to be true", but wouldn't it it just
>> > > shock you if it were true? Since it doesn't cost anything to send it, I will
>> > > pass it on.(and we will find out if it's a hoax, won't we? So pass it on,
>> > > and let's see what happens!

>> > > Vivian

>> > > -----Original Message-----
>> > > Date: Saturday, October 23, 1999 8:24 PM
>> > > Subject: Fw: Check this out quickly and respond!
>> > >
>> > > >
>> > > >----- Original Message -----
>> > > >Sent: Saturday, October 23, 1999 3:02 PM
>> > > >Subject: Fw: Check this out quickly and respond!
>> > > >
>> > > >>
>> > > >> >I am forwarding this because the person who sent it to me is a very
>> > > >> >professional business person and a good friend and does not send me
>> > > >> >junk.
>> > > >> >
>> > > >> >Microsoft and AOL are now the largest Internet company and in an effort
>> > > >> >make sure that Internet explorer remains the most widely used program,
>> > > >> >Microsoft and AOLare running an e-mail beta test. When you forward this
>> > > >> >e-mail to friends, Microsoft can and will track it (if you are a
>> > > >> >Microsoft Windows user) for a two week time period. For every person
>> > > >> >that you forward this e-mail to, Microsoft will pay you $245.00, for
>> > > >> >every person that you sent it to that forwards it on, Microsoft will pay
>> > > >> >you $243.00 and for every third person that receives it, you will be
>> > > >> >paid $241.00. Within two weeks, Microsoft will contact you for your
>> > > >> >address and then send you a check. I thought this was a scam myself,
>> > > >> >but two weeks after receiving this e-mail and forwarding it on,
>> > > >> >Microsoft contacted me for my e-mail and within days, I received a check
>> > > >> >for $24,800.00.
>> > > >> >
>> > > >> >You need to respond before the beta testing is over.
>> > > >> >
>> > > >> >If anyone can afford this Bill Gates is the man. It's all marketing
>> > > >> >expense to him.
>> > > >> >
>> > > >> >Do Well!!!
>> > > >> >
>> > > >> >
>> > > >> >KELLY
>> > > >> >
>> > > >> >

[Historians take note:  This version marks the last major revision that would take place for several years, as later versions will now make only minor, half-handed changes. Perhaps this is due to the numerous spin-offs that arose targeting different companies. The two important additions to this version.  The testimonial that appeared in the previous version has been played off of to create a string of cajoling suggestions about "what can it hurt to try" as well as reassurances that this is valid, as well as a claim of an actual success. The complex rules have been removed and replaced with a simple pyramid scheme.  More importantly, this revision replaces the MS-Disney match up with a much more ominous MS-AOL pairing, playing off of the public's fears about the AOL-Netscape buyout and the Microsoft anti-trust investigations.]

 


Exhibit E: Maturity


 

-Received: Tue, 21 Mar 2000 14:50:02 PST

Subject: Fwd: FW: PLEEEEEEEEEEEEEEASE READ! (fwd)
Date: Tue, 21 Mar 2000 14:50:02 PST
>
> > Subject: FW: PLEEEEEEEEEEEEEEASE READ!
> >
> > Nothing to loose...
> > -----Original Message-----
> >
> >
> >> Take it for what it is worth.
> >> ----- Original Message -----
> >> Subject: Subject: Fwd: PLEEEEEEEEEEEEEEASE READ!
> >>
> >> I just received this from my cousin in GA. who really does a great
> >> job with folloqup..So be blessed. Real money I'm an attorney, and I know the law.
> >> This thing is for real. Rest assured AOL and Intel will follow
> >> through with their promises for fear of facing a multimillion-dollar class action
> >> suit similar to the one filed by Pepsico against General Electric not too
> >> long ago. I'll be damned if we're all going to help them out with their
> >> e-mail test without getting a little something for our time. My
> >> brother's girlfriend got in on this a few months ago. When I went to visit him
> >> for the Baylor/UT game she showed me her check. It was for the sum of
> >> $4,324.44 and stamped "Paid In Full". Like I said before, I know the law, and
> >> this is for real. If you don't believe me you can email her at jpiltman@baylor.edu
> >> mailto:jpiltman@baylor.edu She's eager to answer any questions you guys
> >> might have.
> >> Thanks, Dirk. I know I'm already in.
> >> 
> >> Moore, Dirk" wrote: If you don't do this, you must be really, really dumb.
> >>
> >> From: James M. Schwarnica
> >> This is not a joke. I am forwarding this
> >> because the person who sent it to me is a good friend and does not send me junk.
> >> Intel and AOL are now discussing a merger, which would make them the largest
> >> Internet Company and in an effort make sure that AOL remains the most widely
> >> used program, Intel and AOL are running an e-mail beta test. When you
> >> forward this e-mail to friends, Intel can and will track it (if you are a
> >> Microsoft Windows user) for a two week time period. For every person that
> >> you forward this e-mail to, Microsoft will pay you $203.15, for every
> >> person that you sent it to that forwards it on, Microsoft will pay you
> >> $156.29 and for every third person that receives it, you will be paid
> >> $17.65 within two weeks,
> >> Intel will contact you for your address and then send you a check. I thought
> >> this was a scam myself, but a friend of my good
> >> friend's Aunt Patricia, who works at Intel actually got a check for
> >> $4,543.23 by forwarding this e-mail. Try it, what have you got to lose?
> >>

[Historians take note:  The testimonials have been fleshed out with an air of legality.  However, it was written by people without a clear understanding of the words being used.  First, there was not Pepsi-G.E. lawsuit, and if there were, it, by definition, could not be a "class action" suit, which refers to a lawsuit where a group of people acts as the plaintiff as opposed to a single entity.  This is clearly a reaction to the recent tobacco settlements, trying to give the reader the sense that they have the power to make big companies "pay".  The fear of being forced to participate against one's will by a too-powerful corporation is prevalent in this e-mail, which angry rhetoric about making the company pay.  Someone clearly tried to make the e-mail more believable by replacing the arch rival MS/AOL pair with the non-competing AOL/Intel pair.  Unfortunately, an extreme lack of proofreading left the references to Microsoft in the payout section, indicating that this hoax has begun to decay in it's old age.  The testimonials added fake names and e-mail addresses to make the e-mail sound less "second-hand", but the whining "please" in the header doesn't lend any additional credibility to the e-mail.  Also note that the UT/Baylor reference clearly marks this version as a "localized" Texas version of the e-mail, further indication that this hoax has begun to fracture beyond repair.]

 


Exhibit F: Decline in the Mature Years


 

-First Received: Mon, 10 Jul 2000 16:36:19 PDT
-Second Received: Tuesday, July 03, 2001 8:25 PM

 

Subject: Fwd: FW: Please Read, We will see if it works. $$$$$$$$$
Date: Mon, 10 Jul 2000 16:36:19 PDT

If this works it would be cool...

>Subject: Please Read, We will see if it works. $$$$$$$$$
>
> >> > > > > > > Subject: Please Read, We will see if it works. $$$$$$$$$
> >> > > > > > >
> >> > > > > > >
> >> > > > > > > > To all of my friends, I do not usually forward messages but
> >> > > > > > > > >> this is from my good friend Pearlas Sanborn and she really is
> >> > > > > > > > >> an attorney.....If she says that this will work - it WILL
> >> > > > > > > > >> work. After all, what have you got to loose? 
> >> > > > > > > > >> Gina Russo
> >> > > > > > > > >>
> >> > > > > > > > >> SORRY EVERYBODY.....JUST HAD TO TAKE THE CHANCE!!!
> >> > > > > > > > >> I'm an attorney, and I know the law. This thing is for real.
> >> > > > > > > > >> Rest assured AOL and Intel will follow through with their
> >> > > > > > > > >> promises for fear of facing a multimillion dollar class
> >> > > > > > > > >> action suit similar to the one
> >> > > > > > > > >> filed by Pepsico against General Electric not too long ago.
> >> > > > > > > > >>
> >> > > > > > > > >> We're not going to help them out with their e-mail beta test
> >> > > > > > > > >> without getting a little something for our time. My brother's girlfriend
> >> > > > > > > > >> got in on this a few months ago. When I went to visit him for
> >> > > > > > > > >> the Baylor!/UT game. she showed me her check. It was for the
> >> > > > > > > > >> sum of $4,324.44 and was stamped "Paid In Full". Like I said
> >> > > > > > > > >> before, I know the law, and this is for real. If you don't
> >> > > > > > > > >> believe me you can email her at jpiltman@baylor.edu. She's
> >> > > > > > > > >> eager to answer any questions you guys might have.
> >> > > > > > > > >>
> >> > > > > > > > >> Intel and AOL are now discussing a merger which would make
> >> > > > > > > > >> them the largest Internet company and in an effort make sure
> >> > > > > > > > >> that AOL remains the most widely used program, Intel and AOL
> >> > > > > > > > >> are running an e-mail beta test. When you forward this
> >> > > > > > > > >> e-mail to friends, Intel
> >> > > > > > > > >> can and will track it (if you are a Microsoft Windows user)
> >> > > > > > > > >> for a two week time period. For every person that you
> >> > > > > > > > >> forward this e-mail to, Microsoft will pay you $203.15. For
> >> > > > > > > > >> every person that you sent it to that forwards it on,
> >> > > > > > > > >> Microsoft will pay you $156.29 and for every third person
> >> > > > > > > > >> that receives it, you will be paid $17.65.
> >> > > > > > > > >> Within two weeks, Intel will contact you for your address and
> >> > > > > > > > >> then send you a check. I thought this was a scam myself, but
> >> > > > > > > > >> a friend of my good friend's Aunt Patricia, who works at
> >> > > > > > > > >> Intel actually got a check or $4,543.23 by forwarding this
> >> > > > > > > > >> e-mail. Try it, what have you got to lose????

[Historians take note:  A name changed here, a phrase changed there.  This exhibit is nearly identical to the previous e-mail and was received over the span of an entire year, indicating that active development of this e-mail has all but stopped, with the victims more than happy to repeat the same tired message.  The only major change over the course of the year was the deletion of the e-mail address used to validate the reference.  Perhaps it was an older version that resurfaced, but more likely it was a misguided recipient trying to protect an innocent person from unwanted mail without realizing the irony of their own actions.]

 


Exhibit G: The Source of Infection


Now that you have inspected the evidence, here is the original header from the original message dating from September 1997. Sent from one friend to one other friend as an inside joke.  If the original header hadn't been destroyed by the repeated forwarding and folk-editing process, Mr. Mack could have become the most famous person on the internet.

Date: Tue, 18 Nov 1997 13:47:32 -0600
To: Yort Diggidy <******@lcac3.loras.edu>

From: Bryan Mack <brymack@iastate.edu>
Subject: bill gates here

If anyone still has copies of any earlier versions of this e-mail, please let me know.

 


Exhibit H: Friends Reminisce


Some corroborating evidence I have for Bryan Mack as the original source comes from this short post to my messageboard back in 2000.

Name: Jamie Butenhoff
HowIFoundGLires: Refered from Bryan Mack
Date: 11/14/00
Time: 12:12:06 PM
HTTP User Agent: Mozilla/4.0 (compatible; MSIE 4.01; Windows 98)

Comments

Nice page on spam. I happen to work with the villian of the pege, the origionator of the Bill Gates email! I didn't believe him, but your page seems to back up his claim!

 


Exhibit I: The Creator Speaks


I actually got an email from the creator a while back.  I was on vacation at the time, and I totally forgot to reply.  Bad me!  I also forgot to update my web site for a year.  Bad me!  It would probably be weird if I replied after this long, but maybe I will anyway.  I'll think about it. Here is his statement

Received: from hotmail.com 
From: "Bryan Mack" 
To: glires
Subject: soooo...
Date: Tue, 10 Jul 2001 22:53:54 -0500

greetings stranger,
so you're on to my scam of about 5 years ago from my frosh year at college huh?  here i am, "bill gates". that email address doesn't exist any longer as i have graduated with a MIS degree from iowa state. i can't believe you actually traced that back. i feel both responsible for filling up my mail box the last 5 years with junk mail - but at the same time i feel quite unique in the sense that i started worldwide havoc. however, you must realize that any intent to begin such a gigantic chain of spam was completely unintended.  I did send that email to my friend Troy (spelled backwords = yort = yort diggidy (don't ask!)) as a joke. we were sitting in the computer lab next to each other talking about how stupid some forwards were when i said "i can come up with something more original than these things" so i wrote that email, and look what its done in the last 5 years. now you see "a creature will run across your screen if you send this to x amount of people", or various trips, or money.  not to sound cocky, but these are all people copying my style. they are all spinoffs -if you will - of my website.  i figured you'd get a kick out of hearing from me. by the way - i found your site by putting my email address into a google search to see what i could find, and i did used to work with jamie butenhoff, so he has told you the truth. adios

bryan

 


Exhibit J: A New Life


Activity seems to have settled down for a while.  A year or so, anyway.  But I suspect that this is due to two reasons.  One, I have educated most of the people who know my e-mail address well enough that they don't send me many forwards.  Two, the Bill Gates e-mail has been translated into language upon language and has taken a global tour outside the United States.

What's a celebrity to do after a successful world tour?  Make another appearance at home.  This time the forwards are not by the computer newbies of the earlier wave, but by technically savvy users forwarding the email out of sheer incredulity;  that is, much more in the original spirit of the e-mail, but still having the same coverage.  This Exhibit was sent through an e-mail listserv for LINUX users.  This one was notably edited for length, as the original ran several dozens of pages long.

Date: Wed, 22 May 2002 13:31:21 -0700
Subject: stupid people
To: Discussion forum for UH UNIX computer users

Will these idiots ever cease to amaze me? CN

-----Original Message-----
From: UH-NSBE Chair Patricia Rushing
Sent: Monday, May 13, 2002 11:44 AM
Subject: Fwd: FW: THIS IS FOR REAL. IT WAS ON THE NEWS LAST NIGHT.
>
>I know this is a hoax....but I still fell victim....Enjoy
>
>-----Original Message-----
>Subject: Fwd: THIS IS FOR REAL. IT WAS ON THE NEWS LAST NIGHT.
>
>----- Forwarded by J 05/08/2002 12:30 PM -----
>>>>>
>>>>> Dear Friends,
>>>>>
>>>>> Please do no t take this for a junk letter. Bill Gates is sharing his
>>>>> fortune. If you ignore this you will repent later.  Microsoft and AOL are
>>>>> now the largest Internet companies and in an effort to make sure that
>>>>> Internet Explorer remains the most widely used program, Microsoft and AOL
>>>>> are running a e-mail beta test.
>>>>>
>>>>> When you forward this e-mail to friends, Microsoft can and will
>>>>> track it (if you are a Microsoft Windows user) for a two week time period.
>>>>> For every person that you forward this e-mail to, Microsoft will pay you
>>>>> $245.00, for every person that you sent it to that forwards  it on! ,
>>>>> Microsoft will pay you $243.00 and for every third person that receives
>>>>> it, you will be paid $241.00. Within two weeks, Microsoft will contact you
>>>>> for your address and then send you a cheque.
>>>>>
>>>>> Regards.
>>>>>
>>>>> Chinu! I thought this was a scam myself, but two weeks after
>>>>> receiving this e-mail and forwarding it on, Microsoft contacted me for my
>>>>> address and within days, I received a cheque for US$ 24,800.00. You need to
>>>>> respond before the beta testing is over. If anyone can afford this Bill
>>>>> Gates is the man. It's all marketing expense to him. P! lease forward this; 
>>>>> to as many people as possible. You are bound to get at least US$ 10,000.00.
>>>>>
>>>>> _____
>DT, Future Director, M*** K**, Inc.
>Have you tried our new Signature Creme Lipsticks, Lip Liners and Lip Gloss?
>You can try them by visiting my Website @

>Subject: Fwd: FW: Fw: FW: THIS IS FOR REAL. IT WAS ON THE NEWS LAST NIGHT.
>>>Date: Fri, 3 May 2002 16:31:14 EDT
>>>
>>>Hello,
>>>
>>>I am forwarding this info to you.
>>>
>> -----Original Message-----
>> From: Esther Maciel
>> Sent: Thursday, May 02, 2002 3:41 PM
>> To: Coronado; Lopez; Garcia; Aguilera; Villalobos; Garibay; Cruz; Ramirez; Maquetta ; Lolita ; Martinez; Garcia
>> Subject: FW: Fw: FW: THIS IS FOR REAL. IT WAS ON THE NEWS LAST NIGHT.
>>
>>
>> Dang it if this is for re! al I am going to have a little extra spending
>> money................
>> -----Original Message-----
>> From: Gonzales
>> Sent: Thursday, May 02, 2002 1:04 PM
>> To: Cavazos ; Luna; Coronado; Guzman; Pate; Castillo; Montez; Menasoff; Gonzales; Cavazos; Salaz; Salaz; Reyes; Cavazos; Strachan; Cuellar; Jorge; Juanita; Ageitos; Llanos; Pojar; Vill arreal;
>> Subject: FW: Fw: FW: THIS IS FOR REAL. IT WAS ON THE NEWS LAST NIGHT.
>>>>>
>>>>> Dear Friends,
>>>>>
>>>>> Please do not take this for a junk letter. Bill Gates is sharing his
>>>>> fortune. If you ignore this you will repent later. Microsoft and AOL are
>>>>> now the largest Internet companies and in an effort to make sure that
>>>>> Internet Explorer remains the most widely used progra! m, Microsoft and AOL
>>>>> are running an e-mail beta test.
>>>>>
>>>>> When you forward this e-mail to friends, Microsoft can and will
>>>>> track it (if you are a Microsoft Windows user) for a two week time period.
>>>>> For every person that you forward this e-mail to, Microsoft will pay you
>>>>> $245.00, for every person that you sent it to that forwards it on,
>>>>> Microsoft will pay you $243.00 and for every third person that receives
>>>>> it, you will be paid $241.00. Within two weeks, Microsoft will contact you
>>>>> for your address and then send you a cheque.
>>>>>
>>>>> Re! gards.
>>>>>
>>>>> Chi nu! I thought this was a scam myself, but two weeks after
>>>>> receiving this e-mail and forwarding it on, Microsoft contacted me for my
>>>>> address and within days, I received a cheque for US$24,800.00. You need to
>>>>> respond before the beta testing is over. If anyone can afford this Bill
>>>>> Gates is the man. It's all marketing expense to him. Please forward this
>>>>> to as many people as possible. You are bound to get at least US$10,000.00.
>>>>>
>>>>>
>>>>> _____

[Analysis: The email remains horribly fractured, although it harks back to the peak versions (cf. Exhibit D).  The plausibility becomes strained in modern times when Bill Gates no longer leads Microsoft and AOL is expunging itself of all things Microsoft.  The senders seem take glory in the brokenness and the length of the forwarding headers; the e-mail is even contained twice.  The e-mail came through tech-savvy channels, including the Space Physics group and a member of the University's Administration.  The forwards include explicit statements that they know it isn't real and are using it for pure entertainment value.  On the other hand, one person is attempting to use the ads as a means to sell cosmetics, which is kind of messed up.

In the end, it doesn't really matter whether a person is forwarding a chain letter out of humor or whether they do it out of belief.  Either way it still gets forwarded to just as many people and becomes just as much of a problem.  Humor is not an excuse.

The second copy is more illuminating as to the whereabouts of the e-mail for so long.  Most of the names included in the headers of the second message are of non-English origin, which is a probable indicator that it has been in or near foreign countries where English is not the primary language.  Also notice the non-American spelling of "cheque,"  the misspelling of the salutation "Regards" and other words due to extended characters used by non-english character sets, the out of context use of the word "repent," and the personally unidentified language of "Chi nu."  So while the e-mail has taken on a more academic interest in the states, it is still believed by those to whom it is a pioneer in untainted lands.]


Conclusion: 


In conclusion, this e-mail false but serves as a demonstration of how the public can be easily misled about technology which they do not understand.

Remember: Chain letters clog up the internet and are just plain annoying.  If you were sending these messages through the US post, it would be considered mail fraud.  STOP THE CYCLE.  DON'T FORWARD SPAM.

 

If you would like more information about modern hoaxes, take a look at the "Urban Myths" site.  Or, for more information about this particular hoax, see "Urban Legends Reference Pages Inboxer Rebellion (Thousand Dollar Bill)".

 

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