Almost every day, I receive some type of chain letter in my e-mail Inbox. They all usually contain different information and while some of them are ridiculous, there are a few that seem really important. Is there any good that can come from me forwarding those e-mails to my friends? Are the chain letters really true? If you could clear this up for me, I’d really appreciate it. Thank you!

Ah, yes, I know exactly what you’re talking about! I’m sure all of you have gotten an e-mail like that before, am I right? There are literally tons of chain letter type e-mails floating around the Web these days and it’s been going on for years. And while those kinds of e-mails can be rather convincing, they are all just a big hoax. I repeat, it’s a hoax. If you don’t believe me, please keep reading and I’ll tell you why!

Before I go any further though, I want to make sure everyone knows exactly what we’re talking about. If you’re not quite sure what I mean when I say a chain letter type e-mail, listen here for an example. One that quickly came to my mind is about a young child who is terminally ill and needs an operation. The e-mail starts off by telling you about the child and their family. It gives you a poem to read that was supposedly written for the child and it then asks you to forward the e-mail to everyone you know. It goes on to tell you that for every forward, a certain amount of money will be given to the family to help with the cost of the operation. The e-mail usually says that some big company, like AOL, will be donating the money. All I can say is, it’s not true!

The simple truth to all of this is a forwarded e-mail cannot be tracked. So, even if you forward an e-mail like the one I described above to every single person you know, there’s no way a company like AOL could track that to determine how much money they should donate. It’s as simple as that! In fact, there’s no way anything like that could ever be possible even if we wanted it to. E-mail services just don’t work like that. Plus, once an e-mail is forwarded over and over again, it’s often too mangled to even detect anything, which makes any type of tracking system impossible.

So, if you ever receive an e-mail that says “Forward this to as many people as you can,” don’t! I promise, it’s just not worth it. Now, I know some of you might be thinking, “Well, maybe I’ll forward it just in case it is true.” No! That won’t help anything either. If you do that, you will only continue the cycle of sending out false information. Once you forward the e-mail, you’re basically sending a hoax to all of your friends and family members. There’s no good in that, now is there? It’s best just to delete the e-mail and move on.

Now, if you’re positive an e-mail you receive is true, there are many resources you can use to check it out before you send it on. One of the most popular is Snopes.com. Snopes does a great job of keeping everything up to date and it covers a wide range of topics. You can just go to the Web site, type in a few keywords about the e-mail you received and you should be able to find some information on it. For example, I went to Snopes, typed in “e-mail hoax” in the search box and it gave me several to look through. I’m sure yours is there somewhere!

To finish up, when you come across an e-mail you’re not sure of, it’s best to either just delete it right away or at least check it out on a Web site like Snopes. Chances are, it is an e-mail hoax, but if you want to be certain, you have some options. Either way, please keep yourself safe. Nasty e-mails come through our Inboxes everyday and if you’re not careful, you may end up being a victim of one of them. Be careful, my friends!

~ Erin