Monday, January 07, 2008

Pet Peeve of the Week: Email Forwards

As always seems to happen around this time of the year, I've come down with some sort of illness and am feeling a bit under the weather. So because I am all nasty and sick, this post will be especially bitter!

What prompted the subject of today's tirade was a message I received from a friend this morning, asking me to check into an email she had been forwarded that was "heartbreaking." However, she had a feeling that it was a scam, and had remembered that years ago I sent a diatribe against forwarded emails to all of my close friends, informing them of how the vast majority of these sorts of messages are bogus. The one my friend had received yesterday was entitled, "Please read for my daughter" and included a bunch of sappy sayings like, "Just for this afternoon, I will unplug the telephone and keep the computer off, and sit with you in the backyard and blow bubbles." At the end of the list of "Just for todays" was a plea from a 29-year-old father (a policeman) whose daughter Rachel has brain cancer. They didn't have enough money for an operation she needed, so for some unknown reason, AOL and ZDNet were going to pledge 32 cents for every three people the message was forwarded to in order to raise money for Rachel's urgent procedure.

Now, before I go any further... what is wrong with this picture? Why would AOL and ZDNet do this? (My point being, there are several people in need of help in the world and in this country--why would these firms open themselves to a barrage of sob stories by agreeing to help this one particular child?) How exactly would they track the email forwards? Why aren't they promoting their good deed? Wouldn't it get some sort of news coverage, if only locally? If they were going to help, is this really the most efficient and effective way to raise money--to forward around emails and give 32 cents for every three people reached? Why wouldn't the father include his phone number and address in case someone wanted to do more for Rachel's cause?

Because the entire situation is completely made up. I found that out in about 2 seconds by typing "brain cancer" into Snopes' Urban Legend Search Engine. This particular email about Rachel's brain cancer had been circulating in some way, shape or form since the year 2000! If you're curious about it's history, here's the link. To be extremely clear - Rachel DOES NOT EXIST.'s main page has a category listing of urban legends and forwarded emails... most that I have received fall under the "Inboxer Rebellion" section. Even things as innocuous as the pictures circulating of Tiger Woods' supposed house are not real.

Along the same lines, I hate those emails that end with asking you to forward the message to ten million other people. It is the year 2008, people!!! STOP THE MADNESS! These emails have been around since 1996, and anyone sending them at this point is just screaming to the world that he or she is an amateur and completely new to the Internet and/or email. I have yet to find a person who actually likes to receive these types of messages. I promise you, nothing bad will befall you if you don't forward a chain email on. In fact, I will go so far as to guarantee that good karma will come your way if you do NOT forward the message any further! If you are just too superstitious to believe that you will not forever be cursed for refusing to follow the demands of some anonymous spammer, then you may want to download the "Chain Letter Nullification" certificate that can be found in this hilarious post by a guy who seems even more fed up than I am about the proliferation of chain emails.

I will admit that it is indeed sad that there are still people out there who knowingly create these types of scams. I'm not really sure what they get out of it. And I fully realize that most people just hit "forward" without thinking through whether or not the subject of the email is plausible--they're not meaning any harm. But if you want to actually help children who are sick--give to a legitimate charity. Forwarding an email initiated by some crazy bastard is NOT going to help anyone, all it's going to do is give the creep who came up with the idea a cheap thrill when he sees it's made its way onto Urban Legend trackers.

So the lesson of the day is... if you get a forwarded email, use (or's Urban Legend Netlore page) to investigate its validity, and then send the link proving its falsehood back to the sender so that they get the hint. You may have to do this a few times to the same person, forwarding seems to be an addiction of sorts for some people!

Alright, I have gotta go wire transfer some money to this guy in Nigeria who really needs my help... I'm pretty sure that one's not a scam, right?

- e


Anonymous said...

Oh E! I agree. i am so sick of receiving these. I am befuddled by my friends who are intelligent, educated, very savvy, forwarding these emails to me, most of which tell me if i dont forward them i will have bad things happen to me. Life doesnt work like that! i am too freaking busy to be spending time forwarding to my friends, for fear of bad things. GRRRRRRRR Thanks for posting. Loving all your regular posts. Anxious for the lost ones to begin....are you going to post your thoughts on the decision for a shortened season?

Anonymous said...

Love your posts, E. I agree with you about receiving and forwarding junk emails. I don't really care if it's actually Tiger's house or not...just sharing with my friends who would appreciate the BEAUTY and ELEGANCE of that house. In general, emails get deleted immediately or unopened if not of a personal nature. Some people are "blocked" and I hate the wasted inbox space for their junk. Gee, E, hope you are feeling better soon. By the way, watch the movie "We are Marshall" and have alot of Kleenex true story movie I've seen in years ! Auntie MA

Capri said...

Great post! I agree, whoever makes up sob stories about dying kids and throws in guilt-trips to get sympathetic people passing them along to spread not only sadness, but sadness over a fake kid deserves to be found out and their identity exposed for all to see.

I'm making up an audio file on the Rachel Arlington hoax, once I can figure out where to put it online, I'll write back with the url. Until then, here's something to help put these hoaxes into perspective for anyone still likely to pass along the next one to cry its way into their inbox.:

Now, presenting for your entertainment *drumroll*

The Chain Letter Child!


* * *


I'm Amy...No, Jessica..No, Jessie, no, Rachel...No, Tamara - wait, it's Kayla! What was my last name again? Bruce? No, I think it was Anderson or Arlington. No, it was Winslet. No, sorry, it was Mydek - no, it's Martin - no, sorry, that was two weeks ago, it's Whightman now!

I'll keep acquiring new names in order to do my best at keeping ahead of the hoax radar so that anyone hoping to prove anything won't be able to search me out on any hoax-busting site! Darn Snopes, Breakthechain and others always seem to catch on way too quickly as it is!

My name is Amy Amanda Alexandra Jessica Jessie Kayla Lanisha Nathalie Nikisha Rachel Tamara Bruce-Mydek-Jackson-Johnson-Martin Whightman.

I'm also the kid who goes missing every two weeks for the past ten years, just call me Brown...Penny Brown...And the same one who keeps coming down with some rare fictional condition that gives me only six months to live. In that form, I like to call myself Rachel Arlington, Jessica Mydek, Amy Bruce, and many others. When I decide to be Rachel, I'm ten month-years old. And I've been pulling the six months to live stunt for the past decade at least, and people still buy into it.

I'm also the dead girl who sometimes threatens to kill you if you refuse to pass on a chain letter, then you can call me Amanda or Bloody Mary.

I can change my gender at will, so I might revisit you again as Matt Dawson, Jeff DeLeon, Rhyan Desquetado, or Christopher John Mineo JR and try to make you do what I want.

I'll sometimes take on the role of any sad or angelic child in the poems and essays of other people to do it; even if these writers didn't give me permission and they are stripped of their proper credit as the author.

The best way I know to get people passing on chain email is by threatening to die if they don't, and by telling them they are heartless if they refuse.

I like to pack the hardest emotional wallop as possible so you'll think I might be for real, and I can continue to sadden people with my sob stories.

That way, I can indulge in my favorite passtime, calling insults, fooling and mega-guilt-tripping people into passing on my completely fictional life and death story! You see, I get a big charge out of accusing everybody of not caring about children whenever they fail to pass on a smarmy chain letter to bring tears to the eyes of all their contacts all over the internet!

And the best part?

I've been getting away with this for years! Scott free! I like to see others take the heat for both being gullible, and for not being gullible, and nobody has ever been able to catch me yet!

Dipsy forwarder falls into their tissue box, believing every one of my malarkey sad tales. Forwarder spams all their contacts.

Maybe one or two contacts actually have enough sense not to believe it, and the honesty to set their poor manipulated friend straight.

Forwarder gets mad at the debunker for being insensitive, or maybe just because the forwarder is embarrassed at having been made a fool of.

Debunker gets mad at the forwarder for being a git, and then for trying to excuse their folly.

Forwarder eventually stops emailing debunker because forwarder would rather go on believing in chain letters and passing them on without having their sad heroic illusions about themselves and chain letters, shattered.

So, did I make you cry?

Or did I just make you mad?

Did I make you mad at your foolish friends?

Or did I make you mad at the person or people who told you you've been had?


Either way, I win, you lose, nyah nyah nyah nyah, hahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahaha!



Ernie said...

I am an avid user of Snopes and at first, felt bad for pointing out that people's forwards were scams. But after all these years, it's time to stop the madness. I love replying with Snopes links now just to show them that they should stop forwarding this stuff.

I love this cartoon and thought it was appropriate for your post: