InSITE--Breaking the Chains in Your EMail

Do you ever get emails warning you about impending doom or children who want birthday or post or business cards? Or are you one of the people who send them? They're about as old as the U.S. Mail. Unfortunately, the bad old days are swamping us in a whole new high-tech way. On the Internet. In your email.

You can break the chain. That's the name of the site, it's really in depth. These folks did their homework, and I think read our email. When you get an email asking you to read it and forward it to all your friends. Stop! click here first, to the list of the most recent email hoaxes or practical jokes going around. It lists lots of things I get in the mail.

Here's a real tear jerker. An email from a parent telling the tale of a sick child. You forward the email to everybody in your address book, and some big business will count the emails and donate a few cents each to pay for the life saving surgery. Only problem. It's a fake. Nobody's counting emails, or donating a nickel.

If that has your blood pressure up a bit, surf to their page on the different types of email chain letters. This section is very well thought out. Several different categories of chain letters, some playing on our patriotism, others talking politics, while some claim they'll save your life or your health. They also have a whole section on jokes. Warning here. Some of the jokes are not family friendly. Probably a good idea to keep an eye on the kids as they surf. As you always should.

Here's one that's clever, a dire chain letter warning of a chemical danger. DHMO. As the letter says, it's colorless, tasteless, very common, and can cause some nasty problems. Sweating, tissue damage, nausea, even death if you inhale too much of it. But the big problem is some folks don't get the joke. DHMO is a long chemical for water. Drink too much, sure, you get sick and sweat it out. Inhale too much, you drown. But it's just water. And it's just a joke.

So what's the problem? First, the jokes. Sure, some are good some great, but some people just don't get them, and take them seriously. Like the one claiming people are growing kittens in bottles so they take strange shapes, then selling them as "bonsai kittens." sick. But a joke. This one started as a joke as well. But how many of your email friends swore it was a real picture taken in New York City on September 11th? With friends like that, who needs enemies?

Speaking of enemies, here's where it gets very dangerous, and potentially expensive. I know I've warned you about these before, but people are still getting scammed. How many people from third world countries are asking you to help do the right thing with millions of dollars of their money? Or they need you to protect your money, by updating your banking information on PayPal or eEay? don't ever, ever give them anything. They are out to rip you off.

Okay, so you know all that. You recognize the jokes, and the faked photographs. So what's the harm in forwarding those pleas for prayers or cards to sick kids? lots of harm. They offer a long list. Your service provider doesn't like it. They might not tell you, but most of your friends won't like it. Sending that much junk is like a neon sign to spammers with your email address flashing. Most compelling, it's an inconvenience to any real people who might be mentioned in the letter. Like the chiropractor who had to add a new phone system after someone wrongly put his number in a letter. Or the school worker who had to change email addresses when the system couldn't handle all the replies to another letter about a sick kid. Or the real, legitimate charities which actually have to hire people to handle the hoaxes.