If the email message was forwarded, and it asks you to either send information or money somewhere OR to send out email or postal mail, check carefully on its pedigree. Note that I don't just mean be sure your friend sent it. They probably did. But check that the 'story' in the email is true and verifiable. If it's for a cause that's in the news, verify that the organization making the appeal sent it. If it is for an 'unnamed project' or 'unnamed child' or sympathy-jerking cause, be very suspicious.
Here's a good place to look: Hoaxbusters at CIAC - the U.S. Department of Energy's Computer Incident Advisory Capability website. Or just Google for some representative terms from the email - like, say "sick child wish chain letter internet" and see what you get. Dollars to doughnuts you get verbatim text from your email in the results - and now you know.
You're not done, though. Responsibility demands you consider your actions carefully. Blowing a 'reply-all' out to every email on the damn email would really only compound the problem. Better to pick the last few people, the one(s) you know personally, and write them an email with a *different* subject, alerting them to the chain letter (preferably with a link to an internet citation of its hoax status) and a quick suggestion (politely phrased, it's not THEIR fault, remember?) that they check first in future.
Hopefully, next time, you won't get the email.
And we'll all save time.
Thanks. This concludes this particular Nannygram.
Posted by jbz at October 21, 2005 3:58 PM