The Curse of a Thousand Chain Letters
Here they are. The greatest E-mail hoaxes of all time.

Good Times virus alert
The mother of all e-mail hoaxes. The Good Times virus does not exist. Read what the FCC has to say about the warning.

Variations (all hoaxes):

Cancer girl
The cancer girl is one of the most enduring chain letter hoaxes. It claims that sending it will somehow generate money to help. (Where does the money come from? Nobody knows.) One give away that this message is a hoax is it's incorrect e-mail address for the American Cancer Society. Trust me: Don't forward these ever. They offer a false sense of hope, and contribute to a quick-fix attitute toward serious illnesses. See also: The American Cancer Society's response and a related article from ZDNet. On a happier note, some versions of the chain letter debunk the hoax and direct people toward See Summer Swing Dance, a touching site run with good intentions.


Puppy Mill Donations
This is another piece similar to the sick child forwards. Once again: Forward e-mail DOES NOT GENERATE MONEY for ANY CAUSE. Not even puppies.

Bill Gates and Disney offer free trips
Remember: Nobody's ever won anything by sending a chain letter. There are also non-Disney variations of this letter with a phoney hit counter and Bill Gates offering cash.

AOL 4.0 Bug
Ex-programmers apparently explain a privacy bug in a new version of America Online, how powerful corporate influence suppressed the truth, and why they were driven to start this chain letter in August 1997. This writers of this letter misuse the term "cookie," giving their shallow story away as a hoax. See also: America Online's response.

Variation: AOL Instant Message service to be canceled is also a hoax. Companies announce these things via press releases, not chain letters.

Hackers on AOL
This letter claims that if you don't forward it, you will be kicked off of AOL forever. Some threat. Untrue.

Hacker Riot, Feb 14
Ooo! Rioting hackers! Scary! Obviously, the riot never happened and this message is a phony.

Variation: AOL Riot, June 1

Virus hit-list for AOL
This list pretends to update you on the latest virus concerns, but the incorrect computer terminology gives it away as a hoax. Even if it were true, the information would be virtually worthless. Other hoaxes about AOL include information about hacker rings who crack passwords, unfounded IM dangers and the threat of stealing credit card numbers. AOL rule of thumb: Sending e-mail won't ever do anything to change the security of your account. If you have questions, call AOL tech support for the real dirt: 1-800-827-6364.


Cookie recipe
This person claims to be fighting back at a resturaunt that overcharged his bill for a chocolate chip cookie recipe. It is a classic urban myth that has apparently circulated in various mediums for decades. See a web page about the story, an alert on a recipe site, the FAQ for more info on the hoax. If you're looking for a silver lining to this story, Greg Thompson tells me he's made these cookies and they are "soooooooooo good!!!"

Kidney Harvesting
Relax. Nobody is trying to take your kidneys. Don't send this message thinking you might be helping save someone's internal organs, because it's another urban legend.

Nike shoe exchange
This hoax encourages people to send their worn-out sneakers to Nike for recycling, and claims Nike will return this act of good will by giving the sender a free pair of shoes. See Nike's reaction or a story from The Mining Company for more information on why it isn't true.

Phone scam (90#)
This is an urban legend about a code that apparently allows people to access your phone line for long-distance calls. This may work for some multiple-line systems, but doesn't apply to most household phones. No need for a panic attack; read Hoax du Jour for more information.

For Chelsea Clinton
Sex-deprived student requires you to send this message to every university... Aw, gimme a break.

P4NTZ/H4GiS Yahoo! virus message
These folks actually hacked the Yahoo page to demand the release of hacker compadre Kevin David Mitnick, but their virus is a hoax. Their message has been circulated as a chain letter, also. See the CNET story for more info.

Shannon and the dangers of IMs
I wasn't sure where to file this one, but I decided it contains enough flawed logic to be considered a hoax. It tells a story (probably fiction) that is supposed to teach children the dangers of giving out their personal information online so people don't find them. Fair enough. But the message doesn't explain why any police officer would do hunt down a little girl in North Carolina to prove this point. If you have more information about this one for me, let me know.

Missing baby
This "have-you-see-me" message was true for a very short period of time. But by the time the message became widely circulated (summer 1998), the missing child had already been found, and the local law enfocement was flooded with phone calls. A good rule of thumb: Don't ever send a message with a specific person's name, phone number or photo unless you know them personally.

Sunscreen Warning
I admit it: I don't have any information that proves this is a hoax. But think about it: If sunscreen was as dangerous to the eyes as this message claims, wouldn't there be a lot more blinded children? (Please let me know if you have any medical information about this.)

Check your shampoo
Shampoo bubbles causing cancer? Sounds bogus to me.

Guiness Book of World Records
Sorry folks, but you need to do more than just send a chain letter to get your name printed in a record book.