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Chain Letters

Chain letters are scams that are probably as old as the Post Office itself. A chain letter is a hyped up get rich quick scheme that promises the recipient a lot of money or other benefits if they participate by mailing the letter on to others.

The reader/recipient is told he or she can make hundreds or thousands of dollars per mailing if they follow the detailed instructions contained in the chain letter. The chain letter always includes the names and addresses of a number of people, for example 10-50 names.

You are usually asked to send $5 or $10 cash to the name and address at the top of the list. Then, you eliminate that name and add your name to the bottom of the list. Then you are supposed to make photocopies of the letter and mail them to the other individuals on the list who are supposed to repeat the process. The letter claims that if they follow the same procedure, your name moves progressively up the list and you receive a bunch of money.

Chain letters can also be a form of "envelope stuffing" scam. It's also a form of pyramid scheme because of the progressive aspect (each name & address is a layer in the pyramid and moving up the list is dependent on a continous flow of new names). The only people making money are the originators of the chain letter campaign.
Unfortunately, some chain letter operators have gone digital. Regardless of the technology used to foster these schemes, if snail mail is used at any step, itís considered illegal.
According to the United States Postal Service:

Chain letters are illegal if they request money or other items of value and promise a substantial return to the participants. Chain letters are considered a form of gambling and sending them through the mail (or delivering them in person or by computer, but mailing money to participate) violates Title 18, United States Code, Section 1302, the Postal Lottery Statute.
** Side Note: Some chain letters are actually legal. Chain letters asking for items of nominal value, like recipes, may be mailed because such items are not considered valuable in the eyes of the law.
The Bottom line about chain letters is that they don't work because of mathematical impossibility. Chain letters are losing propositions. You will not get rich participating in one, but could end up in a heap of trouble.


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