• Directory of Internet terms
  • Chain letter — A form of spam which asks you to distribute the letter to many other people. They are against the policies of most Internet service providers, and almost always are hoaxes. Many of them promise quick ways to make money, usually on the basis of pyramid or Ponzi schemes, which are illegal. Some make pie-in-the-sky promises, for example, that Bill Gates will give everyone $1000 for just helping test his new mail distribution scheme. Many of them prey on your sympathy and tell stories of a sick child who has asked that word be spread about the illness by chain letters. They may involve the Make-a-Wish Foundation, which states that they support no chain letters. Many report a virus warning, and ask you tell everyone about it. The virus warnings are invariably hoaxes. None of these purposes are legitimate. If you have any doubt at all about the legitimacy of a chain letter, please check the Department of Energy's Computer Incident Advisory Committee (CIAC) Chain Letter Page or ask us in the Navigating the Net Forum, and we'll research it and find the answers.