Saturday, September 13, 2003


A friend from college (circa 1982) sent me an e-mail today. It was a chain letter—you’ve probably seen it – it’s the one that declares that Bill Gates is sharing his fortune. It states that, if you are a Windows user, you should forward this message to all of your friends and soon you will be rich. The first few lines of the message contained “this was on the news” and “I got this from my friend so-and-so, who is a lawyer and knows about these things” (which should be a showstopper right there).

When I have the patience for it, what I usually do when I get these kinds of messages from somebody I care about, is to look the hoax up on one of the web sites that catalogs such things. I then send a reply back to the numbskull who sent me the chain letter gently explaining that it was a hoax and letting him know that he can read the details of the hoax at the link provided. I usually make a gentle point of suggesting that, in the future, instead of perpetuating these vile things, he stops them in their tracks and looks them up himself at one of the many sites that track hoaxes and urban legends.

Today, just minutes after I sent this very helpful e-mail reply to my chain-letter-sending friend, he sends me a note that says, ”Yea, I thought so…but I figured what have I got to lose?”

At that point I just HAD to climb up on my soapbox and compose a letter back to him explaining what it is he has to lose: his INTEGRITY! I mean, think about it…he sent that stupid chain letter to a long list of people. The loss of productivity and personal time he caused…not to mention the snowball effect of many of those people regurgitating the damn thing to all of THEIR friends is astounding. On top of that, he caused a small mountain of useless e-mail to be sent over the Internet, adding to its already over-burdened infrastructure. This is a guy that I am in contact with maybe once or twice a year…if he’s sending this kind of stuff to me, I wonder what he sends his really close friends?

When you get this kind of stuff in your e-mail box…just ignore it and delete it. Don’t even bother to take the time to digest it, let alone forward it. If you cannot resist reading these types of dastardly messages (and you know who you are), then do yourself a favor and bookmark the following sites:


It’s fairly simple to check the validity of a chain letter. Pick out some key phrases in the e-mail and search for that phrase at one of the above sites. Placing the phrase within quotation marks will help narrow down your search. For example, in this case I searched on “bill gates is sharing his fortune.”

You may have to choose more than one phrase to search on, and you may have to search at more than one site…but isn’t it worth it to preserve your integrity?

OK…I am climbing down off my soapbox now (but I probably won't stay there).

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