Chain Letters

  • Just as we would want to forward an urgent "virus alert" we had just received to all our friends, when someone receives an e-mail message telling of a brave little girl, dying of cancer, who's last wish is to receive the most email messages in the world, they want to send it to their friends. Resist the urge. Please.
  • At Least, before you take any action regarding re-emailing a touching chain letter, check with someone you trust, or check it out yourself, to make sure it's just not one of many Internet hoaxes. And our best advise: Just say no to chain letters.

The first paragraphs of CIAC's "Internet Chain Letters" page read:

  • "The Internet community is constantly being bombarded with chain letters in the form of e-mail messages. They claim all manner of warnings and dire notices of doom and gloom for your computer systems or for some poor soul somewhere, all of which will be saved if you just send this message on to all of your friends."
  • "Enter the world of the Internet chain letter. In the years before computers, chain letters were common and were sent by U.S. mail and requested a stamp. This limited the extent to which chain letters were passed on, because sending them involved a real, up front cost in time to type the letters and money for stamps. The fact that most chain letters asked you to send a dollar to the top ten people in the chain caused most people to ignore them."
  • "Today, with the click of a button, a message can be forwarded to hundreds of people at no apparent cost to the sender. If each of the so-called good Samaritans sends the letter on to only ten other people (most send to huge mailing lists), the ninth resending results in a billion e-mail messages, thereby, clogging the network and interfering with the receiving of legitimate e-mail messages. Factor in the time lost reading and deleting all these messages and you see a real cost to organizations and individuals from these seemingly innocuous messages."
  • "Not only are these messages time consuming and costly, they may also be damaging to a person's or organization's reputation as in the case of the Jessica Mydek and the American Cancer Society chain letters."

Some chain letters are just a means to use the Internet to forward non-computer "hoaxes". by example, you can read about the great "Kidney Harvest" hoax at several sites.

Another problem with chain letters (however well-meaning) particularly on the Internet via e-mail, is that they can develop "a life of their own" completely separate from reality.

Take for example the case of Craig Shergold involving the Make-A-Wish foundation. This is a real boy who had a real brain tumor, but his tumor was successfully removed in 1991, and he's fully healed. And millions of e-mail letters still come in, six years later, despite pleas from the family and others to put a stop to the letters:

Make-A-Wish Foundation® of America
100 W. Clarendon, Suite 2200
Phoenix, AZ 85013-3518
(800) 722-9474
Fax: (602) 279-0855

Media Release
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE -- Call (800) 215-1333, ext. 184 for pre-recorded Craig Shergold message

PHOENIX, AZ an unauthorized chain letter encouraging people to send business cards to a seriously ill boy continues to generate thousands of pieces of mail each day, even though the boy is now healed and the family has requested an end to the mail.

News reports stated in 1989 that Craig Shergold, a 9-year-old English boy diagnosed with a terminal brain tumor, wanted to be recorded in the Guinness Book of World Records for receiving the most greeting cards. His wish was fulfilled in 1990 after receiving 16 million cards.

Shergold's tumor was successfully removed in March 1991. However, the cards and letters continue. Several versions of the letter exist, most of which wrongly claim that the young boy remains terminally ill and now wants to receive the largest number of business cards. The addressee is encouraged to gather business cards, forward them to an incorrect address in Georgia and then forward the chain letter to 10 friends.

"The chain letter claims that Make-A-Wish is involved," stated James E. Gordon, Chairman of the Board of the Make-A-Wish Foundation of America. "That is not true. Our organization is not, and has never been associated with the letter. Yet our office continues to receive numerous phone calls each month about the letter, diverting our staff time and resources from our mission. The Make-A-Wish Foundation requests that people please stop sending business cards or greeting cards to Craig Shergold."

The Make-A-Wish Foundation of America has set up a special 800 number to explain the situation. Callers can listen to a pre-recorded message by dialing (800) 215-1333, ext. 184.

Make-A-Wish Foundation of America, based in Phoenix, has 82 chapters in the United States. Any child between the ages of two-and-a-half and 18 who has been determined to have a life-threatening illness is eligible to receive a wish. The first wish was granted in Phoenix in 1980, and since then Make-A-Wish has granted more than 37,000 wishes ranging from building a backyard fishing pond to an all-expense paid trip to Disney World.

For further information regarding the Make-A-Wish Foundation and qualifying children, contact (800) 722-9474.
– Criag Sherhold

Note: When receiving e-mail, it is of good practice to never open any attachments include with any e-mail message. There are exceptions of course when receiving these from someone you now and trust or have requested that the information be sent to you. e-mail attachment can contain harmful viruses and Trojan horses that can infect your computer. These can range from very docile nuisance viruses to ones that can wipe out your whole hard drive. Delete any attachments that are in question (most all) immediately after receiving them. If you happen to get "infected" be sure and purchase and use a good virus protection software. But even having the "latest and greatest" software can't fully protect you from the "latest and greatest" viruses.

The information on this page, in whole or in part, was developed by the University of Oklahoma Police Department (OUPD). They have generously allowed our department to use this information.