Chain letter

An electronic chain letter is an email that urges you to forward copies to other people.

Chain letters, like virus hoaxes, depend on you, rather than on computer code, to propagate themselves. The main types are:

  • Hoaxes about terrorist attacks, premium-rate phone line scams, thefts from ATMs and so forth
  • False claims that companies are offering free flights, free mobile phones or cash rewards if you forward the email
  • Messages that claim to be from agencies like the CIA and FBI, warning about dangerous criminals in your area
  • Petitions that, even if genuine, continue to circulate long after they expire
  • Jokes and pranks (e.g., the claim that the Internet would be closed for maintenance on April 1)
  • On social networks like Facebook, posts asking users to share links, such as a photo of a sick infant that needs a heart transplant, or phony scares such as children being targeted with strawberry flavored drugs

Chain letters don’t threaten your security, but they can waste time, spread misinformation and distract users from genuine email.

They can also create unnecessary email traffic and slow down mail servers. In some cases, the chain letter encourages people to send email to certain addresses so that they are deluged with unsolicited mail.

The solution to the chain letter problem is simple: Don’t forward these messages. (See Hoax)

Back to Security Threats A-Z

Back to Threatsaurus Home

download Threatsaurus: A-Z of Threats
Download now