Search the FAQ Archives

3 - A - B - C - D - E - F - G - H - I - J - K - L - M
N - O - P - Q - R - S - T - U - V - W - X - Y - Z - Internet FAQ Archives

Scams and Hoaxes FAQ: Messages you DON'T want to post

[ Usenet FAQs | Web FAQs | Documents | RFC Index | Houses ]
Archive-name: net-abuse-faq/scams
Posting-Frequency: weekly

See reader questions & answers on this topic! - Help others by sharing your knowledge
           Scams and Hoaxes FAQ: Messages you DON'T want to post

        $$$Get Rich Quick$$$, Good Times Virus, and Other Nuisances

There are a large number of scams and hoaxes that keep popping up on BBS's,
Usenet, and the Internet; many are also distributed by faxes or by E-mail. A
few of them were started by well-meaning but foolish people; most of them
were created by people who just wanted to cause trouble or rip other people

For those of you who are new on line: please don't post or repost this type
of material if you run into it. Most of us are sick and tired of seeing
these things, and all you'll do is annoy everybody.


Some typical scams and hoaxes:

1.  'Get Rich Quick!' schemes, also known as 'MMF' (for 'Make Money Fast!'):

There are large numbers of these. One of the earliest ones started out "My
name is Dave Rhodes. In September 1988 my car was repossessed...", and
continues on to tell how 'Dave' became fabulously wealthy.

Some MMFs try to sell you 'reports' which will supposedly make you rich,
others ask you to send money to everybody on a list of names, and yet others
want your money so they can set you up in a 'lucrative' home business
selling a 'wonderful' product.

All of these things have one goal: to separate fools from their money. They
claim to tell you how to get rich, but they're nothing but scams. Most of
them involve illegal pyramid schemes or chain letters (i.e., mail fraud).
And just because one *says* it's legal, that doesn't mean it really is.

Chain letters and other types of MMFs are also known as 'Lose Your Internet
Account Quick!' schemes: distributing or participating in them is prohibited
by most ISPs, and you stand a good chance of losing your Internet access if
you use your account to distribute MMFs or other scams.

Friendly advice: do not get involved in any on-line money making
opportunities, work at home schemes, credit repair schemes, etc. without
advice from a lawyer, accountant, or other qualified professional.

If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.

2.  Warnings about an 'E-mail virus':

An early version warned that an E-mail message (or text file) with the
subject 'Good Times' would melt down your CPU and do other horrible things
if you even read it. There are similar warnings about posts with other
subjects, such as 'Deeyenda', 'Pen Pal Greetings', 'Join the Crew', 'Win A
Holiday', "It Takes Guts to Say 'Jesus'", and many others.

These warnings are hoaxes: there are no viruses or Trojan horses that are
distributed in plain-text E-mail messages.

Please note that it is possible for an E-mail message or Usenet article that
includes a file attachment or embedded executable code (i.e., JavaScript in
an HTML message) to transmit a virus or Trojan horse:

    Any executable file you receive, by any method, can contain a virus or
    other malicious code; this includes files received as part of an E-mail
    message or newsgroup post.  So treat executable file attachments as
    carefully as you would any other files you receive: use a virus scanner
    on them.

For a non-technical introduction to computer viruses and Trojan horse
programs, see "Computer Virus FAQ for New Users".  It's posted to the new
user newsgroups weekly, and you can also find it in the Usenet FAQ archive
at <>.

3.  "FCC Modem Tax", "Bill 602P", charging for E-mail, and related nonsense:

In 1987, the U.S. Federal Communications Commission considered a proposal
that would have increased the amounts paid by ISPs for their connections to
local telephone networks.  This became known as the "FCC Modem Tax"
proposal.  It was abandoned by the FCC in 1988, and since then the FCC has
repeatedly stated that it has NO intention of changing its rules to allow
charging per-minute charges to ISPs for their connections to local telephone

Unfortunately, over ten years later, bogus warnings about the proposed 'tax'
and other Internet surcharges still show up on a regular basis.  Most of
these warnings are deliberate hoaxes, but a few may be based on
misunderstandings of bills or proposals under consideration.

The latest variants of this hoax are various bogus warnings that the U.S.
Congress or the Canadian government are considering bills to charge people
for sending E-mail; some versions mention a 'Bill 602P'.

The one thing most of these hoaxes have in common is to urge people to write
protest letters to government officials.  Please do NOT write to the FCC, to
Congress, or to any other government agencies based on warnings you see on
the Internet unless you have verified that the warning is legitimate AND you
understand what the proposal is really about.

You can check the status of FCC regulatory proposals at the FCC's web site,
<>, and you can check the status of bills being
considered by Congress at the Library of Congress's Thomas web site,

4.  The little boy dying of cancer who wants everybody to send him lots of
get well cards:

The little boy was cured, no longer has cancer, and is now grown up. Yet the
get well cards are still coming in, and there are so many of them that
they're overloading his town's post office and causing major problems. All
because of well intentioned people who keep reposting the boy's story
without bothering to investigate it.

There are a number of variants of this one, such as requests for business
cards, etc.  Please don't spread these requests around or mail off
'donations' to the addresses mentioned in them, no matter how sincere they

5.  E-mail tracking program chain letters:

These are E-mails that ask you to forward copies to other people because an
'E-mail tracking program' is monitoring them.   Supposedly, you'll get lots
of money, free beer, or some other reward if you send the E-mail to enough
people.  Some of them claim to come from Bill Gates, Walt Disney Jr., Miller
Brewing Co., Nike, or Microsoft.

Needless to say, these are all hoaxes: just more garbage to clutter up
people's inboxes.  There's no such thing as an E-mail tracking program that
can do what these letters claim.

If you receive a copy of one of these, just delete it.  Forwarding these may
get you hate mail and complaints to your ISP, but it most definitely won't
get you any money or free beer.

6.  'Good Luck' or 'Make a wish' chain letters:

These messages tell you that passing them along to several other people will
bring you good luck or make a wish come true, and that deleting them will
bring you bad luck.  They often include stories about the good and bad luck
the letter has brought to other people.  Some include an ASCII picture of a
'Good Luck Totem'.

DON'T pass these letters on or post them in newsgroups.  They may look cute
if you've never seen one before; but they've been going around for years and
most of us are sick and tired of seeing them.  If you do send one along,
you'll probably wind up with _bad_ luck: people may send you nasty flames,
mail bomb you, complain to your ISP, etc.


If you see any of the above, or anything that looks like them, please don't
respond to them or spread them around. You'll probably wind up looking
foolish, and you may also get heavily flamed. And 'Get Rich Quick!' schemes
or deliberate trouble making can cost you your Internet account and cause
you legal problems.

NOTE: if a warning claims to come from IBM, the FCC, or some other
well-known source, you can check up on it just by going to their web site.
(A legitimate warning message should include a pointer to a reputable
location where the warning can be verified.) If the warning isn't on the
referenced site, it's probably just a hoax.  And if you can't verify
something yourself, contact the person who sent you the warning (or posted
it in a newsgroup) and ask THEM where to verify it.


Some rules of thumb for spotting scams and hoaxes:

1.  If a message just screams 'PASS ME AROUND!', be suspicious.

2.  If a message is second hand info with no reliable source for
verification, be suspicious.

3.  If a message asks for your money or your credit card info, promises to
make you rich, or claims to be legal, be very, very suspicious!


Please don't let any of the above discourage you from passing on verified
warnings from sources you know are reliable. But PLEASE check out the
stories that don't have really good credentials: an awful lot of them are


Sources of additional information:

1.  The U.S. Post Office has information about the legal consequences of
chain letters, pyramids, and similar scams on their Consumer Fraud page at

2.  The CIAC's hoax and chain letter pages, at
<> and
<>, have excellent
information about many of the common hoaxes and scams currently showing up
in E-mail and in Usenet newsgroups.

3. The Computer Virus Myths home page, at <>,
has large amounts of information on virus hoaxes and similar items.

4.  The AFU & Urban Legends Archive, at <>,
has tons of information about everything from kidney theft stories to E-mail
virus hoaxes.  Or drop into the newsgroup <news:alt.folklore.urban>.

5.  For information about real viruses: read the FAQs for <news:comp.virus>
and <news:alt.comp.virus> and join the discussions in those newsgroups. You
can find the FAQs in the newsgroups or in the Usenet FAQ archive at
<>.  You can also find virus info on
the web sites of companies producing anti-virus software.

6.  For information about net abuse: visit the* (nana)
newsgroups and read the FAQs at <>.

Laws vary from place to place, so check with your own authorities for
information about the legality of chain letters, pyramids, etc. in your

And remember: TANSTAAFL! (There Ain't No Such Thing As A Free Lunch!) R.A.H.

Note: this FAQ is updated periodically.  Copies posted to the new user
newsgroups should be current, but if you found this FAQ somewhere else,
please see <> for the latest

Nick   <>

User Contributions:

Comment about this article, ask questions, or add new information about this topic:

[ Usenet FAQs | Web FAQs | Documents | RFC Index ]

Send corrections/additions to the FAQ Maintainer: (Nick)

Last Update March 27 2014 @ 02:11 PM