An electronic chain letter is an e-mail that urges you to forward copies to other people.

Chain letters like virus hoaxes depend on you, rather than on computer code, to propagate themselves. The main types are:

Hoaxes about terrorist attacks, premium-rate phone lines scams, thefts from ATMs and so forth.

False claims that companies are offering free flights, free mobile phones or cash rewards if you forward the e-mail.

Messages that purport to be from agencies like the CIA and FBI, warning about dangerous criminals in your area.

Petitions, which – even if genuine – continue to circulate long after their expiry date

Jokes and pranks (e.g. the chain that the internet would be closed for maintenance on April 1st)

Chain letters don’t threaten your security, but they can waste time, spread misinformation and distract users from genuine e-mail.

They can also create unnecessary e-mail traffic and slow down mail severs. In some cases, the chain letter encourages people to send e-mail to certain addresses so that they are deluged with unsolicited mail.

The solutions to the chain letter problems is simple: Don’t forward such e-mails!