Spyware, Viruses, & Security

General discussion

If I forward this e-mail to 10 people, will I win $1,000?

by Lee Koo (ADMIN) CNET staff/forum admin / May 6, 2011 7:40 AM PDT
Question:

Member Jaye asked, how true are these?

1) Any time you see an e-mail that says "forward this on to '10' (or however many) of your friends," "sign this petition," or "you'll get bad luck," or "you'll get good luck," or "you'll see something funny on your screen after you send it," or whatever--it almost always has an e-mail tracker program attached that tracks the cookies and e-mails of those folks you forward to. The host sender is getting a copy each time it gets forwarded and then is able to get lists of "active" e-mail addresses to use in spam e-mails or sell to other spammers. Even when you get e-mails that demand you send the e-mail on if you're not ashamed of God/Jesus--that is email tracking, and they are playing on our conscience. These people don't care how they get your e-mail addresses--just as long as they get them. Also, e-mails that talk about a missing child or a child with an incurable disease, "how would you feel if that was your child"--e-mail tracking. Ignore them and don't participate!

2) Almost all e-mails that ask you to add your name and forward on to others are similar to that mass letter years ago that asked people to send business cards to the little kid in Florida who wanted to break the Guinness Book of Records for the most cards. All it was, and all any of this type of e-mail is, is a way to get names and "cookie" tracking information for telemarketers and spammers--to validate active e-mail accounts for their own profitable purposes.

You can do your friends and family members a great favor by sending this information to them. You will be providing a service to your friends. And you will be rewarded by not getting thousands of spam e-mails in the future!

Do yourself a favor and stop adding your name(s) to those types of listing regardless how inviting they might sound! Or make you feel guilty if you don't! It's all about getting e-mail addresses and nothing more.

You may think you are supporting a great cause, but you are not! Instead, you will be getting tons of junk mail later and very possibly a virus attached! Plus, we are helping the spammers get rich! Let's not make it easy for them!

Also: E-mail petitions are not acceptable to Congress of any other organization--i.e. social security, etc. To be acceptable, petitions must have a "signed signature" and full address of the person signing the petition, so this is a waste of time and you are just helping the e-mail trackers."

--Submitted by: Jaye B.

Here are some member answers to get you started, but
please read all the advice and suggestions that our
members have contributed to this question.

Usually not for tracking --Submitted by: MightyDrakeC
http://forums.cnet.com/7726-6132_102-5127714.html

Both of them could be true --Submitted by: darrenforster99
http://forums.cnet.com/7726-6132_102-5127842.html

Don't just delete! Be proactive fighting spam & fraud! --Submitted by: lodave
http://forums.cnet.com/7726-6132_102-5128107.html

Chain letters and electronic petitions --Submitted by: Alain Martel1
http://forums.cnet.com/7726-6132_102-5127725.html

Chain letters --Submitted by: paul_saute
http://forums.cnet.com/7726-6132_102-5127700.html

Thanks to all who contributed!

If you have any additional advice for this member or just want to share with some of us the dos and don'ts about using e-mail, post them in this thread. I'm sure it would be helpful to many.
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Chain letters
by paul_saute / May 6, 2011 11:17 AM PDT

All these "chain" emails do is use up bandwidth. Also, (if someone hacks your email account), in the hands of a spammer, a letter of this type is a gold mine of email addresses especially if ALL of the addresses of everyone in the chain are still present in the forwarded email.

Another variation is the fake/scam "this is a virus warning" email that we see so often.

Remember - if it seems too god to be true, IT IS too good to be true!

PaulS

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Forwarding chain emails
by Peterderek / May 6, 2011 6:36 PM PDT
In reply to: Chain letters

Paul you are dead right. I am 78 years old so go back a long way. This pyramid scam has been prevalent all my life, the only difference is that it is now electronic and much easier to set up. 99% of all such emails are either fraudulent or phishing, the 1% is from some niaive **** who wants to get his(her) name out in public. (Peter) Derek

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(NT) At 65 myself I've seen this scam become digital. Peter Rocks
by mas98110 / May 13, 2011 11:30 AM PDT
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break the chain
by victorrichard / May 6, 2011 7:01 PM PDT
In reply to: Chain letters

If you receive one of these emails, the best (and only) way to respond is to mark it as spam or junk. This lets your email server or isp know that it is a negative email, and leaves a record of a potential pfishing scheme (sorry if my spelling or terminology is wrong, but I am not claiming to be a i.t. expert). By doing what the email asks, there is a high probability that you will not be helping the little girl in Idaho with inoperatable cancer, but you will most certainly be helping to add to someones mailing list. You certainly will not be doing any of your friends or family members on your mailing list any favours.
Do you remember the chain letters we use to get as kids? Did you reply to them? Did you get rich? Did anyone you sent them to get rich because of them that you know of?

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Breaking The Chain
by MissCapri / May 10, 2011 4:51 AM PDT
In reply to: break the chain

You might also consider making a reply to the person who sent you the chain letter - if they are people you know, and letting them know the forward is false and potentially harmful to spread around. Sites like truthorfiction.com and hoax-slayer.com etc. have articles debunking much of this viral nonsense, and pointing the senders to those sites may help as well.

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Don't Kill the Messenger
by sableone / May 13, 2011 6:49 PM PDT
In reply to: break the chain

This kind of letter usually arrives from a well meaning friend that you would like to continue receiving email from. If you let your email server or isp know that this is spam, you risk putting that person on a spam list (at least for your account) and his/her mail may be divirted to the "spam bucket." Just delete it and let the mailer know what is really going on.

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chain emails
by chrissyd2 / May 14, 2011 12:50 AM PDT
In reply to: break the chain

What if I were to copy and paste the content into a blank email and then send the original to the spam folder. Wouldn't that keep it from tracking my friends and verifying my own email for them? Of course I would tell the person to ignore the forward request and do as I did. I would probably copy and paste the content without including the part telling you to forward it to 10 people.

Chrissyd

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again-please explain
by chrissyd2 / May 15, 2011 12:49 AM PDT
In reply to: chain emails

I asked a question and a thumb down does not help me know why. Can you respond and tell me why the thumb down and answer my questions. I learn from things like this. I am here to help if I can and to learn something new so I can help better. School doesn't teach you everything. They never even discussed working on a laptop.

Chrissyd

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Let me explain that asking a question inside a POLL.
by R. Proffitt Forum moderator / May 15, 2011 1:14 AM PDT
In reply to: again-please explain

This is a poll question and if you ask a question inside this discussion your replies may be short or lost.

Try this. Create your very own discussion and place your question there. This way you get your own discussion.
Bob

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Your response
by chrissyd2 / May 20, 2011 2:17 AM PDT

First of all I am new to this and it is not necessary to be nasty. Second this appears to be a forum not a poll and my question had to do with the topic of the forum so it is not necessary to start a new discussion about the same topic. If I made a mistake, I apologize for the misunderstanding. I did not realize this forum discussion was a poll. You could have told me that without the attitude and remarks. Have a great day.

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2nd thumbs down--here's why
by kerbiec / May 16, 2011 7:13 AM PDT
In reply to: again-please explain

I marked it thumbs down because I wasn't sure what you were asking.

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Email Chain Letters and Scams
by csmithsmithusa / May 6, 2011 10:46 PM PDT
In reply to: Chain letters

Those who have been victims of Email scams or have suffered
monetary damages will find relief by emailing the offending
email, or phoning: The Attorney General of their state, The
Banking Commissioner of their state, the Fair Trade Commission,
or the Consumer Advocate person of their city or state.

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HUGE E-mails clogging up my in box.
by FurAndFeathers / May 8, 2011 1:22 AM PDT
In reply to: Chain letters

A serial virus might stop these folks for awhile. These chain E-mails can be managed by changing the settings for what you will recieve, and from whom. I have a happy chain-link in my group and I blocked her Fw;, Fw; It worked perfectly! Nothing for three weeks now. I won't attempt to say what keystrokes it took (unless you have hours to waste) so maybe someone can outline it?

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No cash offer is genuine
by mal_aus / May 6, 2011 11:58 AM PDT

The old saying "If it sounds too good to be true it probably is" always stands up.
Offers of cash for a reply email will ALWAYS be a suck in. Requests for charity can be met by going directly to the charities site & not by email. Chain emails of any type should never be forwarded.
There is always a better way to research an offer than by answering/forwarding an email.
Stop all spam at your IN BOX.

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Usually not for tracking
by MightyDrakeC / May 6, 2011 11:58 AM PDT

While it is technically *possible* that there's some sort of tracking going on, in the vast majority of cases there isn't.

Today's anti-virus programs watch for stuff like this. Because, if an email fires up a program that can track where an email has gone and report back to a marketer, then some other email could launch a program that installs itself on your computer to do all kinds of nasty things. Like, pop-up ads, keyboard watchers, or using your computer to send out spam, etc. So, if your anti-virus is up-to-date then you're pretty safe against this sort of tracking.

As for cookies or beacon images, those won't harm your computer. But they can be used for marketing statistics. Again, while it's technically feasible that reading an email with a web bug in it could be tied to the particular email address of the first person to get the email, that's not how they're usually used. And, anyone that person forwards it to will not have their email address tracked nor harvested by this method.

Mostly, the pleas to forward to other people are just someone wanting to spread their ideas as far as possible. Or, someone just playing a prank and trying to get people to forward nonsense all over the world.

99% of the "Please forward this to everyone" emails I get contain at least some misinformation, and often the entire email is completely flawed or a hoax. Even the ones that are trying to warn you of some great peril are usually worthless or outright dangerous, like HIV infected needles in coin return slots, gang member initiation rituals, kidnap attempts in parking lots, or simple procedures that will save someone in an emergency medical situation.

The website Snopes is not perfect, but the vast majority of forwarded emails are addressed on there. Use the search box to look for unique information in the email (names, places, etc.) and you'll find the email you just received. Most will turn out to be false.

Several years ago, when I would receive one of these emails from a friend or family member I would look it up on Snopes and then reply back to the person with the link to the Snopes article. It didn't take long before I stopped receiving these from most people. Either they started looking it up themselves (I hope.) Or, they just stopped including me in their forward lists.

There is one significant problem with *other* people forwarding these things. When someone sends one of these messages to you and 20 other people, your email address is now on the machines of 20 people. If 5 of them forward to 20 more people then your email address is now on about 100 different computers. (Because, by default, most email programs include the entire list of people the original was sent to when it creates the forwarded copy.) Repeat that a few times and pretty soon, without you doing anything, your email address is on thousands of computers.

Eventually, your email address will get forwarded to someone whose computer is infected with a virus. That virus scours the hard disk of the machine its on looking for email addresses to send spam to. That is where a lot of spam comes from.

That's also why you cannot trust the return address of emails sent to you. A lot of spam programs pull random addresses from nearby each other in a file. One will be put in the To: field and the other in the From: field. The idea being that if the addresses are close to each other in a forwarded email then maybe those two people know each other. That makes it more likely that someone will trustingly open an attachment in an email they think came from a techie friend.

Always heed the advice: Never open an email attachment that you were not expecting. If an email comes through with an attachment, always check with the sender before opening, even if it's someone you trust. You cannot be certain it came from their computer unless they verify that it did.

Drake Christensen

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Snopes
by sprkymrt / May 7, 2011 4:20 AM PDT

Glad to see someone else uses a web site like this to check spam and other false (and old) emails that are being sent around. Some things were started in the 1990's and are still picked up by people to send around again; I figure a lot of people are new to the computer age and either don't check or just take everything sent out as brand new. Some of the emails concerning chemicals can result in explosions if used in the manner in which they are suggested.

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Thank-you! My concern is addressed.
by FurAndFeathers / May 8, 2011 3:08 AM PDT

As someone who is in a fight for change I found your post both helpful and encouraging. The original Q & A is of general concern, no doubt, but it's so good to have these offerings of experience to target our specific needs when navigating on-line! Cool

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I too always reply with a link to Snopes
by daulton / May 13, 2011 11:43 PM PDT

I do exactly the same: "...I would look it up on Snopes and then reply back to the person with the link to the Snopes article. It didn't take long before I stopped receiving these from most people. "

And I make sure to reply to every address, not just in the From, but in the body. And I even politely ask my friend/relative to continue sending me their "urgent news" so I can continue to be of help. I have not received one for several years now. Happy

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I do, too, but....
by daddyluck / May 17, 2011 10:29 AM PDT

... I still can't get certain family members to STOP sending me this crap. Even after in-person discussions about it. I hit "reply to all" and I also often copy many of the people in the fwd'd headers in the email body. Still can't get it through their thick skulls. <div>I HATE THESE!

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Chain letters and electronic petitions

On the first point:
You just CAN'T win anything by forwarding a chain e-mail.

It's extremely unlikely that there is any tracking stuff imbeded in those. Usualy, any images are the doing of some persons who propagated the message, usualy added as part of a "cute" signature. This can make a 2 lines message inflate to over 2 Mb! I've received one such.

They do some damage by waisting bandwidth and cloging ISP's mail servers.

The problem is that, if any of the recipient computer is infected by a virus or spyware, then ALL the addresses are like juicy fruits ready to be picked. As there is a very high probability that all of those are valid and in current use. It's like the fabled "Pot of Gold" for scammers and spammers.
Also, the names and e-mail addresses of the forwarders are prime targets: It shows that those peoples are more credulous than average and more prone to buy crap advertised in SPAM or follow random links those may contain.

It's entirely possible that some spammers do initiate such a chain in the hope that they could get it back or it reatch some infected computer that will report all those addresses. They don't need to add any tracker.

Forwarding e-mails just can't bring you luck (nor badluck if you don't forward), but it CAN make you loose your acount as most webmails and ISP do have terms that forbid you from participating in the propagation of chain e-mails. It's usualy just after the mention that you are forbided from transmiting virus or other malware and defamatory content.

Electronic petitions ARE used and can have an impact, even if the local juridiction don't "officialy" say so, and even if they say it's not acceptable. In any serious electronic petition, you need to enter your name and street address. That with your e-mail address is often deemed "sufficient credentials".
Normaly, a serious electronic petition don't rely on chain e-mails. You are rather asked to navigate to a specific site where you "sign" the petition. Also, an e-mail about that petition requires you to copy the needed address in your browser as the site's address is not provided as an active link but only as plain text.

Here, in Canada, such petitions have succeeded in forcing some gouvernmental agency to come back on already passed decisions and reverse them.

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Don't. Quit your day job
by jallisy / May 6, 2011 1:56 PM PDT

I am always annoyed by forwards and chain letters for all the reasons listed above. But to actually expect to get money for forwarding on some sappy spsm is beyond annoying. Just how is this $1000 suppsed to materialize? If no one is ante-ing up, and everyone who hits send gets $1000 then someone with some awful deep pockets wants to make sure the worlds population is circulating sloppy sentimental greetings or out of date, out of likelihood, peril that needs no such dire message.

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The answer is simple
by timhood / May 6, 2011 3:43 PM PDT

The answer to your question is simpler than some of the answers you've received.

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Reply to Jaye

Hi Jaye, do not send on, mail you did not ask for in the first place.
There are so many of them. One could be spending a day, to resend un asked for mail.
Chances are, people you would send it to, have received is as well.
Cheers,
FranciscusNZ

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Both of them could be true

Both of them could be true,

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EMail Chain Letter Schemes

The only true benefit of participating in an EMail Chain Letter is the increase
of email spam dramatically, perhaps exponentially. Unless you absolutely
love spending time plowing through email, you would be well advised to respond
only to offers from vendors and senders who are known to you. It if sounds too
good to be true, more than likely, it is too good to be true.

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No, you won't win $1000 but...
by Zouch / May 6, 2011 10:46 PM PDT

Hi Jaye,
no, you won't win $1000 but you may well "win" 1000 spam messages or even more!

All of the examples you cite are scams of some sort - call it what you like, "social engineering", greed, whatever.

There are really two mandatory actions you should take and another optional one.

Optional: Forward and report to your ISP's Webmaster, so that they can add the originator to their spam filter

Mandatory 1: Delete from your inbox.
Mandatory 2: Delete from your trash folder

Under no circumstances, open any attachments to the message, however enticing their titles/descriptions may be.

Job done!

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Chain email, etc.

Great answers in the replies already. I am not sure why people keep forwarding these things. I have a canned email I send out at least once a year to all my contacts that tells about these emails. Despite my efforts I still have friends and family that send me these on occasion. If they say "send back to me and your friends and you will have luck or whatever" I hit 'reply', send it back to them and delete the darn thing. Petitions and all the rest end up in my trash bin. If you will notice all of these emails try to appeal to you at the emotional level which will often trigger a response from some. Resist the urge and delete.

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ThankYou! I will share w/everyone who sends me this cr*p!a l
by goldphysh / May 7, 2011 7:29 AM PDT

Something has always bugged me about those emails. I was always suspicious of them and refused from day 1 to participate in any way., The most I've done is reply to my friend that I have a strict policy against participating in any chain email. Now I'll forward (and copy/paste all data into CC then back into body to strip out any code) a link to your post.

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Winning $1000.00

Do the math. You send it to 10, they send it to 10, and on and on. Ten to the 10th is 100 billion. Even Bill Gates can't handle that..

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Don't just delete! Be proactive fighting spam & fraud!
by lodave / May 7, 2011 9:40 AM PDT

Instead of merely deleting spam from your inbox and trash, forward it, including full headers, to:
Federal Trade Commission <SPAM@UCE.GOV>

Additionally one can contribute received spam to SPAMCOP.NET and KNUJON.ORG (see websites
for methods and options), two well-established anti-spam groups.

IMPORTANT: ALWAYS USE "bcc" (blind copy to) for every addressee when sending to multiple recipients,
reserving the "to" line for your confirmation copy or solely the first recipient. Don't use "cc" because every address is visible to every recipient, a very poor privacy tactic!
-davidr

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