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Chain Letters

written by: Ty Wingfoot•edited by: Brian Nelson•updated: 5/4/2009

Chain letters sound like an awfully wonderful idea but the reality is not as pleasing. This article explains the reasons.

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    Chain letters sound like an awfully wonderful idea but the reality is that not every person in the chain is as honorable as you. Remember that a chain is only as strong as its weakest link. If one link is broken, the whole chain is broken. The only people who seem to profit from chain letters are the companies selling the mailing lists.

    The primary purpose of a commercial chain letter is to take your money. It isn’t to share wealth, profits or information. Some chain letters sell reports about credit, mail order sales, mailing lists or anything else that can get your attention. Other chain letters want you to send money to names and addresses specified.

    Chain letters are a waste of time and money. They are also a get-rich-quick scheme. They promise a great return from very little effort. Typically the recipient of the chain letter is told they can earn thousands of dollars just by following the instructions in the letter.

    Chain letters that request money and promise a substantial profit or exorbitant return are illegal in the USA. Illegal chain letters are a form of gambling. It is against American law to conduct gambling through electronic networks or by offers through postal mail.

    Chain letters organized for no profit or for sharing information that don’t have a market value are legal. I’m sure everyone has heard of the youngster and friends who circulated a chain letter to see how many letters they could get back if the chain wasn’t broken.

    Sometimes commercial chain letters include a statement from a professional or respectable company claiming to verify the legality of the offer. These verifications are false. Sometimes it appears that the USPO is verifying the legality of a chain letter. They are not. The United States Post Office doesn’t provide prior approval for any content in mail or email.

    You will probably receive little or no money from participating with chain letters. The cost of copying and mailing the letters would most likely be more than the little or no money you may receive. You will not receive substantial profits by following the instructions included with a chain letter. And, remember what you already know. “If the offer sounds too good to be true, it probably is."