A twist with this letter is that you start to receive money when you
get to position 5 on the list.
Just assume for this analysis that only the person who posted the
message you read was honest (that is, just making copies and passing
it along - not in on the beginning).
Let's see how the generations go until you could see some results:
Copies in Your
So by the time you could get any money out of this, the message would
have appeared on over 11 milion bulletin boards!
Do you think there are that many?
Even if we were only talking people, that would be a healthy number.
There aren't enough people in the US (let alone bulletin boards) to
maintain two more generations.
Do chain letters take other forms?
The idea of each participant needing to bring in several more to
perpetuate a program, sometimes also called a pyramid or Ponzi Scheme,
is not confined to letters.
In the 1980's, there were Pyramid Clubs, some costing $1000 to join.
I just recently saw
a pyramid phone calling scheme.
And multi-level marketing (eg,
also has elements of the pyramid, in that more money is to be made by
bringing in other sales people than by selling the product yourself.
Some chain letters
Internet Chain Letter--Epitomized Meme?
(Also clever meta-chain letter)
(Some chain letters are just for luck - amusement)
A pyramid phone calling scheme
(The first I've seen!
Note: even if pyramids worked, the advertised numbers are wrong.)
How far is near?
(a love game played since 1887)
God and Tenure
(Christian: Why God never received tenure at any university)
Good luck chain letter
("This prayer has been sent to you for good luck."
This is an ancient - in computer terms - chain letter, dating
from 1982! Check out all the headers.)
New VER of "EARN M O R E MONEY" from INTERNET!
(A twist on the usual "pay the guy at the top of the list",
adding payments to others - including the immediate reposter -
giving the appearance you'll come out ahead faster.)
EARN EASY MONEY ON THE NET!
(Emphasis on honesty.
"... you should know upfront:
1. You CAN NOT make 50,000 in a month or even six months by
following the instructions found in this letter, ..."
Though the purported "business" of this letter is selling
mailing lists, the poster has the honesty to admit he's not
bothering to sell the mailing lists.
My reply - which I couldn't resist - is included.
I received at least one "thank you" from a newbie who avoided
the embarassment of participating.)
("Little Kimberly Anne is dying of a horrible tropical
With sex all things are possible
(a long list of headers remains attached)
Stop worrying about business and start playing golf
(a long list of headers remains attached)
(This "program" actually adresses the honesty problem in most
chain letter schemes.
pretty well debunked.)
Neiman Marcus Recipe letter
(A letter spreading the myth "I got ripped off buying this recipe.
I'm getting back at the company by giving the recipe away.
Pass it on to everyone you know!"
The Chain Letter Protection Pact
(This chain letter will protect you from all other chain
PBS Funding Chain Letter petition
(Another well intentioned chain letter gone awry)
Bill Gates BETA Chain Letter
(forward to 1000 people and get $1000 and Windows98,
from "Your friend, BIll Gates")
The Karen Liddell reports chain letter
Bill Gates/Walt Disney Jr. Chain Letter
(A different twist on the Bill Gates BETA chain letter)
Some anti-chain letters
anti chain letter
(to respond to a chain letter, serious)
Nothing to Lose but Our Chains
(with links to other chain letter information)
The Anti-Chain Letter
(With Stupidity, Anything Is Possible)
The World's Most Pointless Chain Letter
("Here's the deal. I'm sending you this chain letter for no reason.")
Email Facts of Life
(Several "Forward this!" myths debunked in one shot)
Chain Letter Humor
(Mike Jittlov; Funny, with nice ASCII graphics)
St. Paul Chain Letter
(Did St. Paul write the first?)
Citation Chain Letter
("Dear Fellow Scientist:
This letter has been around the world at least seven times. It
has been to many major conferences.")
Project Galactic Guide Archives -- Chain Letters
(The Living Letter Theory)
The Mother of all Chain Letters
("This chain letter was started nine hundred years ago by an
obscure German monk named Brother Shlongus of Klinsbrukken ...")
Chain Letters Work.... Really!
(Kiss someone you love when you receive this letter
- From rec.humor.funny)
Make Enemies Fast
(Hans L. Bodlaender, Utrecht University)
("YOU WILL EXPERIENCE GREAT SEX within four days of receiving
this letter, ...")
Russian Chain Letter
("Dear Komrades, My name is David Senovich...")
Make Flames Fast!
("Follow these instructions EXACTLY, and in 20 to 60
days you will have received over 50,000 FLAMES! *Guaranteed*")
Make Friends Fast!
(Why we probably won't get a response from the
Get Arrested Fast!
("Hi, I'm Dave Rhodes, and I'm in jail.")
The Amazing Chain Column
(A column by Jon Carroll of the San Francisco Chronicle -
"3. Put the amazing chain column on your refrigerator.")
Mike Jittlov's Big Money
("Dear Friend: If you're insane, please take a moment and
Good Times virus spoof
("Goodtimes will re-write your hard drive. Not only that, but
it will scramble any disks that are even close to your computer.")
MAKE PENIS FAST!!!
("Follow these instructions EXACTLY, and in 3 to 6 weeks you
will have received well over 50,000 inches of penis, all
Gullibility virus warning
(Pass it on - No, DON'T!)
Make L$D Fast
(A spoof of the Dave Rhodes letter)
Chain Letter Offer
("This really works and is almost legal!"
Another Dave Rhodes spoof)
Make Sandwiches Fast!
("Firstly take two slices of bread...")
Stupid URL Pyramid Scheme
(A pyramid scheme for gathering links to your site.
Demonstrates pretty well how far these schemes do/don't go.
by Chris Koeberle, firstname.lastname@example.org)
FREE ORAL PLEASURE!
(via Heckler's Online)
(Yahoo category for chain letter parodies)
The bread menace
Some Official Positions
US Postal Service
has explained that
are illegal when they use the US mail to request or transmit "things
(They also have information about a lot of other nastiness going on in
and through the mail under their
Inspection Service menu.)
EFF's (Extended) Guide to the Internet - The Chain Letter
What's UCS policy on chain letters?
(Indiana University Policy)
The Skeptic's Dictionary)
Amway: The Untold Story
(A collection of information specifically about Amway)
(Check out this
ex-mirror of the untold story)
("The Definitive Legal Resource for Direct Selling,
Multilevel, and Network Marketing Companies" by Kevin
D. Grimes, an attorney practicing in Idaho Falls, Idaho)
(The US Postal Service's take on MLM)
MLM/NWM Legality Test
(Simple test of the legality of MLM schemes from a lawyer
specializing in the area)
Chain letters = next net disaster ? (Ira Baxter)
(Chain letter mentioned in RISKS digest)
alt.make.money.fast Mini FAQ
EFF "Chain Letters" Archive
Warning: Dave Rhodes and Other Chain Letters
The Investment FAQ
(misc.invest), by Christopher Lott)
Make-A-Wish Foundation: Fraud Alerts
(Their official statement about chain letters)
pyramid schemes, chain letters and Ponzi schemes
The Skeptic's Dictionary)
Two Internet Chain Letters are Hoaxes
(A Better Business Bureau alert about M&M/Mars and Procter &
Gamble chain letters)
I don't spend as much time maintaining this page as I'd like.
Here are a number of links which were sitting in my bookmark file
waiting to be moved in here.
Though I don't have the time at the moment to sort them into the above
catagories, leaving them here unsorted is probably more useful than
letting them clutter my private bookmark file.
Illegal use of the 'net
(A "semi FAQ" written by William G. Dunn,
email@example.com, posted in response to a question on
the legality of a Dave Rhodes letter.
Includes quotes of the US Code often referenced in chain letters.)
Pyramid Schemes: Not What They Seem!
(A publication prepared by the Direct Selling Foundation
posted by Douglas J. Goglia, firstname.lastname@example.org)
Johann's AIDS/HIV Email Chain Letter Page
(Johann Beda discusses using chain letters for a good
cause - eg, AIDS awareness)
Good Times Virus Hoax FAQ
(An explanation of the Good Times virus alert - above)
(The Federal Trade Comission prosecutes a "pyramid investment
fraud" perpetuated on the net)
(Robert Teeter - email@example.com's take on chain letters and
A Saint Without God
(An essay by Steven Rubio on faith and faithlessness inspired
by a chain letter)
Media release 23 April 1999 - Fair Trading issues Pyramid Warning
(Western Australia Ministry of Fair Trading)
(Title 18, United States Code, Sections 1301-1301 & 3005;
The law referenced in and pertaining to chain letters)
Yahoo! - Email Hoaxes and Chain Letters
(Yahoo category for chain letters)
(includes Dave Rhodes and MAKE.MONEY.FAST in a discussion of
You have been lied to.
(A response to the Jessica Mydek letter from Robert Fischler,
If you pass on a chain letter you'll be lucky if some of your
responses are this polite!)
Ponzi or Pyramid???
(Gerald P. Nehra, an attorney specializing in
multi-level/network marketing, explains the difference;
for 9 years, Nehra was Director of the Legal Division
at Amway Corporation)
Pyramid schemes topple Albanian regime
(It's true! A set of links to news articles)
EarthLink's Subscriber Acceptable Use Policy
(specifically bans "Posting or emailing of scams such as
'make-money-fast' schemes or 'pyramid/chain'letters.")
Chain E-Mail: Heart-Rending Pleas Are Sometimes Counterfeit
(From NY Times - requires registration - good article about
(Is their promotional program a pyramid scheme?)
Charles K. Ponzi Website
(The name is synonymous with fraud)
SECRETS OF SUCCESS WITH CHAIN LETTERS
(This "report" seems to play it both ways.
It says "It's best not to get involved in ANY kind of chain
letter scheme because they are ALL illegal"
and straight out "Don't get involved!"
Then it proceeds to give you advice about who to send your
chain letters to.)
False Profits: Analysis of Network and Multi-Level Marketing (MLM)
(A book ad - First chapter is online)
Truth Computer Virus Myths & Hoaxes
(includes a section on chain letters)
Charm Squares and Chain Letters
(Chain letters invade the quilting community)
(A personal response to chain letters)
American Cancer Society 3¢ Hoax
Legal Principles of Multilevel Marketing
(Great reference to determine if you're looking at a pyramid scheme)
Adcomplain Home Page
("Adcomplain is a tool for reporting inappropriate commercial
e-mail and usenet postings, as well as chain letters and 'make
money fast' postings.")
The Legal ABC's of MLM
(an article by Gerald Nehra)
Advertising and Marketing on the Internet: The Rules of the Road
(from the FTC; has some good tips about MLMs)
You’ve Got Spam: How to "Can" Unwanted Email
(from the FTC; a discussion of spam)
The Perils of Amway
Amway: The Untold Story)
Identifying Illegal Pyramid Schemes - by Jeffrey Babener
(on telling the difference between a legitimate MLM plan and a
Off-Shore MLM: U.S. v. Fortuna by Jeffery A. Babener
(an MLM analysis of the FTC case against Fortuna Alliance)
Double Trouble!! (Binary Compensation Plans) by Spencer M. Reese
(a new twist on MLM marketing)
Archive of Email Forwards
(Save bandwidth -- point your friend at an entry in this list!)
Chain Letter Evolution
(A scholarly study of chain letters -- emphasis on the paper
The best I've seen.)
("One Small Effort to Turn the Tide of Cyberjunk"
Basic message: Check it out -- Don't pass it on.)
Those Thrilling Days
(great article on Fortuna Alliance by Paul deArmond in Albion Monitor)
Chain Letter Dilemma
(How many hoaxes can we hit at once?)
$$$$$ MAKE ENEMIES FAST $$$$$
(An IETF "Interned Draft" document which gives a good analysis
of pyramid schemes, Ponzi schemes, and how to really persue
commerce on the net)
Women's Rights petition
(Another example of trying to use chain letters to promote a
This poorly designed scheme would result in many duplications
of signatures -- and a huge volume of mail to the collection point.
If you try to return the petitions to the address specified,
the mail is bounced.)
What every woman should have/know...
(Yet another "Pass it on for luck" bit of humor)
Shaking the Money Tree
(A MetroActive News & Issues feature on Multilevel Marketing
by Ami Chen Mills)
How to Make Tenure Fast: A Chain Letter for Scientists
(a copy of the citation chain letter published in the New York Times)
IJMC - Please Read, A Child's Dying Wish
(International Junk Mail Clearinghouse debunks this one)
Where Do E-Mails Go??
(A chain letter experiment forwarded by a list owner.
There is no attempt to collect any results.
It's just a curiosity to pass on -- please don't.)
Multilevel Marketing Plans
(Cautionary message from the FTC)
The Demographics of Chain Letters
(anti-chain letter rant)
An email experiment
(A third grade class starts a chain letter as an experiment.)
Another email experiment
(Yet another third grade class starting an experimental chain letter.
Perhaps the teachers need an education in geometric progressions?)
letter response to chain letters
(a verbose, informative, canned response)
The "No Forward" Campaign Homepage!
("Our goal is to eliminate those pesky chain-letters that are
plaguing the internet.")
The Predator Chain Letter
(a chain letter that eats other chain letters?)
IRISS '98: Virtual Urban Legends:
Investigating the Ecology of the World Wide Web
("This paper traces the evolution of several ecological
phenomena connected with the spread of replicating
messages on the World Wide Web (web) and Internet (net)."
A great discussion of chain letters, virus warnings, etc.
by Edmund Chattoe,
Centre for Research on Simulation in the Social Sciences,
University of Surrey.)
(A humorous poke at Good Times warnings from rec.humor.funny)
The Ultimate Chain Letter
("Hello, my name is Alfonso Merkin. I am suffering from rare
and deadly diseases, poor scores on final exams, lack of
sexual activity, ...")
virus: virus: Seeking chain letters
(A request for chain letters from the author of the great
Chain Letter Evolution article above)
The Chain Letter Challange!
(Judy Vorfeld of Office Support Services discusses getting
sucked in by hoax warnings)
Hate Crimes Prevention Act petition
(A Gay Rights email petition designed much like the Afghani
Women's Rights petition above)
(Quite a collection)
(A Skeptical Guide to Multilevel Markting)
What's Spam and What's the Problem?
(Chapter 1 of O'Reilly's Stopping Spam by Alan Schwartz
& Simson Garfinkel -- search for "(Can't) Make Money Fast")
How Chain Letters Really Work
(a nice simple analysis of both the math and how people do
make money on them -- honesty be damned)
The Billy Evans chain letter
Chain letter brings windfall to cancer center
(Seattle Times: more on Carol Farkas chain letter)
Chain letter raises $800,000 for a cancer centre
(Global Ideas Bank: Farkas chain letter)
Urban Legend Chocolate Chip Cookies
(Neiman Marcus Cookie Recipe)
FAQ: Reacting to chain letters
Craig Shergold from Gene Spafford
The Hubble Recipe
(a parody of the Neiman Marcus chain letter)
The Boulder Pledge
("A Modest Proposal to End the Junk Mail Plague" from Roger Ebert)
--THE $250 COOKIE: THE FACT OF THE MATTER--
(Neiman Marcus Cookie story)
The Hoax Stops Here!!!
("Why you should not forward all those Hoaxes, Viruses
warnings, and Urban Legends!")
Chain dollar bill
I once received.
("The Ultimate Chain Letter" - demonstrates well how far they go.
Andy Laudato sent a letter to 10 of his friends on November 22, 1999.
He abandoned the experiment January 15, 2000 after the letter
never got beyond level 3 -- Andy was level 0.)
Chain Letter - an excersize in exponential growth
(a parody of chain letters threatening bad luck)
Lucky Web Page
("This is a LuckY web page.
If you link it into your personal home page, you will get luck.")
Unleashing The IdeaVirus
(A book by Seth Godin on marketing using the pyramid concept
to spread your message)
Do e-mail petitions work?
(Salon: "Chain letters and spam rarely impress politicians --
but they might listen to a more personal breed of Web activism.")
Hoax e-mail becomes government worker's nightmare
(Rose Lambert, a US gov't worker, is sorry she passed
along an urban legend warning)
(demonstrates how quickly forwarding a message can multiple)
Do Not Respond To Sarabande Chain Letter
(Brandeis's official response to the Afghanistan Women's
Rights petition -- from archive.org)
Don't forward email petitions
("Email petitions do more harm than good.")
are email petitions spam?
(A mathematical discussion)
Save the [blank]!
("There are numerous problems with pass-it-along email petitions")
Scientists Decode the First Message From an Alien Civilization
("Simply send 6 x 10^50 atoms ....")
(a chain letter archive)
PayPal Chain Letter
(uses PayPal to avoid US Mail)
Volunteer's Chain Letter Embarrasses a Hospital
(NYTimes.com Abstract of article about Carol Farkas letter)
Just Say NO to Chain Letters
("Why you should never ever distribute chain letters")
How Hoaxers Save on Stamps,
or Don't Believe Everything You're E-mailed
Don't Believe Everything You Read
(ScamBusters.org: "some informative resources you can use to
find out if that `urgent' email is legitimate")
Caught up in chain mail
(SocietyGuardian.co.uk: "some charities have found out just
how powerful email can be, especially when it is used against them")
Statutory Instrument 1997 No. 30
(the UK law against Pyramid Selling Schemes; yes, they
are illegal in the UK)
A Dose Of My Own - Break the chain (letters) - August 8, 2002
(a good column on chain letters by Dr. Rolour Garcia)
Chain letters: Who profits and why. How do they work? Who makes the money?
(Bob Sherman does a good logical debunking)
Multilevel Marketing in Immigrant Communities
(a pyramid scheme in Silicon Valley)
Designing Effective Action Alerts for the Internet
(How to do it right)
British variation of Dave Rhodes chain letter
12-step program to give up chain letters
(...you have to send this message to at least 5 of your friends
("a brief set of guidelines which may help to save a few of us")
MMF and Other Chain Letters
(Legality, Netiquette, Advice to New Users)
(snopes.com: A 9th grader named Shannon Syfrett is collecting
e-mail responses for a school science fair project.)
(snopes.com: Another student collecting email responses)
(Cockeyed.com: a good explanation of "gifting club" scams)
IT Security - E-mail
Urban Legends Reference Pages: Inboxer Rebellion (Internet Petitions)
(The legendary Snopes folks weigh on on the ineffectiveness of
online email petitions)
(entry in h2g2, "an unconventional guide to life, the
universe and everything.")
(from Romania and the
anti-chain letter plea
it directs you to)
Anatomy of an e-mail chain letter
(The Vent #308; Charles G Hill takes apart a report chain
letter from "Cole Schulte")
Chain emails have netizens in a bind
("the soul of a religious guru is waiting to be re-born" -
pass it on!)
I found surprisingly little on chain letters in print.
John Scarne has a reasonable description, story, and analysis in a
section called "The Chain-Letter Racket" in
- Scarne, John.
Complete Guide to Gambling, Fully Revised, Expanded, Updated edition.
New York: Simon and Schuster, 1961, 1974.
I guess it is possible to make money legally from chain letters.
The Truth About Chain Letters
is a book by Dan Squier (often called Dan Squire on the net)
which purports to tell you if you can actually
"Make $60,000 in Two Weeks Mailing 600 Letters!"
He'll tell you if they're really legal, show you some actual examples,
and give you his own personal experience, all for $15.
I finally got this "book" -- $12 at Barnes & Noble.
It's 8 1/2 x 11" on newspaper-quality paper.
The content is no better than you can find on this and other web pages
on chain letters.
The most amusing part was his experience with a chain letter - the
A brief quote about covers it:
By the end of the fifth week, I was trying to forget my mistake and
was wondering how I could LEGITIMATELY earn back my money that I had
wasted on this plan.
If you have an offline friend who believes he might get rich through
chain letters, it might be worth sending him this if you can get a
copy for maybe $5.
The Facts About Multi-Level Marketing and Chain Letters
by Robert Drake
will help you
"distinguish between a legitimate opportunity and a rip off" while
telling you "the right envelope to use" and "letter openings that draw
the reader in" for chain letters.
Doesn't sound like he wants to discourage them, does he?
I guess I should get a copy of that one too to review here.
Maybe I should charge for access to this page?)
Dick McLeester has been kind enough to provide a
list of books
he found in Books in Print.
The author of the above referenced page has provided a link to my
Chain Letter page "so you can make your own decision as to the legal,
ethical and moral value of this program."
Allow me then to make a few comments on the "program" as I read it.
The page discussed here was removed within a week of it's initial
appearance on the web.
I will leave my comments here, and have obtained the above (edited)
copy of the original scheme for educational purposes.
I'm not a lawyer and these are just my opinions, but when I read "you
can sit back and relax, because YOU ARE GOING TO MAKE AT LEAST
Mathematically it is a proven guarantee." and see the mathematics they
provide or imply,
I see fraud.
And when they're using the USPS to perpetuate that fraud, then
it looks like mail fraud to me.
- Boy, does it sound familiar.
Hi, My name is
Only a short time ago, my life was a worse mess than yours, and now
I'm living on easy street...
- The program is GUARANTEED!
Your guarantee: If step #1 does not work for you, you can repeat it
(ie, spam some more people)
until it does!
- Check out their own analysis.
They pick the numbers, worst case returns, etc.
Yet by the end of the analysis of one case, 2 million people are
This alone is a significant fraction of all the people on the
If this has been going on for some time, haven't most of the suckers
(ahem, likely investors) been used up?
How may more must be before you reap the advertised success they
- How come it's $5 CASH?
If I were running a business of this scale, I'd be happy to open a
bank account to keep the loads of money in.
Are they trying to hide it from the IRS?
Or just obscure the trail of who has already been taken?
If anyone is not completely discouraged by this and goes ahead and
orders these "reports," please do a public service and let me know if
and if you do, mail me a copy.
In summary, if I was walking down the street and stepped in something
that looked like this program, I'd wipe my shoe very carefully.
MMF Hall of Humiliation
looked at a very similar scheme in more depth in the
MMF Of The Week
for March 9, 1997.
This page last updated November 5, 2019.