In this latest article, I'm going to talk about email hoaxes that get sent around like old fashioned chain letters.
I recently got an email from a client who forwarded a message on to me and I don't know how many other people. The subject was:
"Fwd: PLEEEEEEASE REEEEEAD! IT WAS ON GOOD MORNING AMERICA TODAYSHOW"
In the message it talked about how Bill Gates was testing out a new “email tracking program" and that he wanted you to forward the message on to as many people as you could, supposedly to keep people from switching away from using Internet Explorer (which is a very good idea by the way - and is something I talk about on my special report “5 Common Computer Mistakes and How to Avoid Making Them Yourself" - but how forwarding the email to a bunch of people would stop people from doing this is beyond me).
In exchange for forwarding the email, Bill would supposedly send you up to $245 for every person you sent it to, and even pay you for the people that it got sent to after that!
It sounds nice, and the email throws around a lot of important sounding names like Bill Gates & Microsoft, AOL, and others, and talks about how “my brother's girlfriend" got a check, and other details that are there to help convince people.
But of course, it's all a big hoax.
If you sit down with a calculator, it's pretty easy to figure it out. Let's say you forward the email to 10 people. That'd give you $2,450. So far, that sounds pretty believable. After all, Bill Gates is one of the richest people in the world.
But if those people each sent it to 10 more people, that would be 100 more people Bill would have to pay $245 for. So now the total is something like $245,000. But hey, Bill can still afford that!
But if those 100 people then sent it on to another 10 people each. That's another 1,000 new people Bill would have to shell out $245 each for. So suddenly the total is (I think - this is a lot of zeros and my calculator is starting to smoke) $245,000,000! Even Bill Gates would have to think about it before writing a check that big, at least when he's not really getting anything out of it.
And if that 1,000 people each sent it to another ten, well, the number is too big to fit on my calculator's screen. And it's more money than even Bill Gates has, and we all know he's a billionaire!
So applying a little common sense to these things can go a long way to keep you from getting fooled. Of course, there's no real risk in the Bill Gates hoax, or any of the dozens of variations that have floated around the Internet since 1997 when a bored college student dreamed up the original.
But the same tactics are used by scammers out to get your money, like the Nigerian 419 scams or phishing scams, which have cost a lot of people a hell of a lot of money. Those scams come through email too, and are a lot worse than the harmless prank I just told you about.
So protect yourself with a little knowledge, and stay safe. My articles will help with that, and you can learn even more by getting my special report “How to Avoid 7 Common & Costly Computer Mistakes ".
Worth Godwin is a computer coach with a dozen years’ experience helping computer users of all levels, and has also worked for many years “in the trenches" as a hardware and software tech, solving real-world computer problems.
Worth has also been studying the human mind, and how people learn, since the early 1990s. He draws upon all of this, and his English and writing degrees, to teach people in a unique way with explanations that really make sense.
In 2006, Worth began putting his easy lessons together on CD, helping you with either Apple Mac training or Windows computer training that lets you go at your own pace, for an affordable price, with a system that is both simple and easy.