Chain letters all have a similar pattern. From the older printed
letters to the newer electronic kind, they all have three recognizable
- A hook
- A threat
- A request
First, there is a hook, to catch your interest and get you to read the
rest of the letter. Hooks used to be "Make Money Fast" or "Get Rich"
or similar statements related to making money for little or no
work. Electronic chain letters also use the "free money" type of
hooks, but have added hooks like "Danger!" and "Virus Alert" or "A
Little Girl Is Dying". These tie into our fear for the survival of our
computers or into our sympathy for some poor unfortunate person.
When you are hooked, you read on to the threat. Most threats used warn
you about the terrible things that will happen if you do not maintain
the chain. However, others play on greed or sympathy to get you to
pass the letter on. The threat often contains official or technical
sounding language to get you to believe it is real.
Finally, the request. Some older chain letters ask you to mail a
dollar to the top ten names on the letter and then pass it on. The
electronic ones simply admonish you to "Distribute this letter to as
many people as possible." They never mention clogging the Internet or
the fact that the message is a fake, they only want you to pass it on
Chain letters usually do not have the name and contact information of
the original sender so it is impossible to check on its
authenticity. Legitimate warnings and solicitations will always have
complete contact information from the person sending the message and
will often be signed with a cryptographic signature, such as PGP to
assure its authenticity.
(Originally from http://ciac.llnl.gov/ciac/CIACChainLetters.html
-- Andy Pryke
- 16 Jul 2001