Crimes of Persuasion

Schemes, scams, frauds.

Fraudulent Chain Letter Scams

Most everyone has been the recipient of a chain letter which promised riches if perpetuated and alternatively, certain doom if the cycle were to be broken.

Chain letter schemes urge mail and now e-mail recipients to send a small amount of money or token valuable to a list of several people, remove one name, add their own and forward the e-mail in bulk to others.

Theoretically, the participants will start to receive money as other, "downstream" recipients receive the e-mail and participate.

One chain letter ad extolled the potential of participating in their "lottery ticket" chain letter scheme.

"My wife was standing over a pile of envelopes that the mailman had dropped on the living room floor. Each had a lotto inside!!! When the tickets finally stopped coming we had received $117,586 in winnings!!"

Chain letters are simply low payment pyramid schemes in an envelope, so, like them, they make money only for the first few on the list. All the others lose their money.

That's why pyramids and chain letters deceive consumers and are illegal under state and federal laws. Economists have estimated that about 95% of pyramid participants lose their money.

"Don't be fooled by claims that the U.S. Postal Service has reviewed or given approval for these schemes," warns Larry Maxwell, Manager of the Fraud, Prohibited Mailings and Asset Forfeiture Group of the U.S. Postal Inspection Service. "Many letters provide the correct legal citation, Title 18, Section 1302, which negates rather than supports the legality of the scheme."


One group sends hundreds of thousands of unsolicited e-mails to people directing them to web sites promoting the Mega$Nets and MegaResource programs.

"We know people who are making money with MegaResource. Imagine what you can do with an extra $20 or $200 or $2,000 per month —everyone can use extra money!!"

When you visit one of their web sites you can download copies of the Mega$Nets software program which contains a list of five names and addresses. The software program and web sites direct you to send twenty dollars to each of five people listed in the software in order for you to get yourself placed at the top of the list of names.

According to them, upon receiving the money, the five people on the list will send "access codes" to you. These access codes then allow you to "unlock" the software, delete the last name on the list, and insert your name on the top of the list.

They then encourage you to send unsolicited electronic mail to other people, referring them to your own Mega$Nets web site.

"Mega$Nets is an easy to use, yet sophisticated, software program to help the average person get in on the fabulous profits being made in the computer networking age. . . . The potential for you to receive a tremendous income within a remarkably short period of time is too good to refuse!"

"The potential earnings at first could total $15,000!"

"AFTER THAT IT BECOMES AWESOME! Your next payment in the 4th position could be $20 times 3125 which is $62,500. Add that to your previous $15,000, and the grand total is $77,500. When the fifth and final position is reached, your name disappears from future duplicated disks. By then YOUR TOTAL INCOME COULD BE $312,500!!"

continue QuickTour

It Means "Five Idiots"

One scheme, dubbed Pentagono, describes itself as an "international program of wealth distribution" and is operated through an Internet home page provided by an Italian company, Future Strategies International.

They claim to be registered with the Italian Chamber of Commerce and Industry in Modena. They also claim that Future Strategies is a company completely approved by the Italian authorities, operating worldwide. There are a number of Internet web sites that post links to the Pentagono site.

In the scheme, investors have to purchase a membership certificate from "a friend" priced at $60 Cdn. Seven people's names are printed on this certificate - the friend's name is on the bottom.

Once the certificate has been purchased, you are asked to send $60 to the person who is shown in the top position. You are also asked to send an additional $60 to Future Strategies Srl, Via Muratori 1, Carpi (Mo) 41012, Italy, to cover administrative costs.

Once this has been paid, you will receive three additional certificates with your name in the seventh position. You must then sell each additional certificate at $60 each. By the time your name reaches the top of the list, the company claims a total of $131,220 can be earned.

Future Strategies says "the mathematically tested Pentagono system represents the improvement and best synthesis of over fifty years of experience and university studies".

The RCMP has been advised by Italian authorities that because this scheme does not constitute a criminal offence in Italy, but rather a violation of an administrative procedure they will not be intervening.

Terminology Often Used in Chain Letter Promotions

Dear Friend,

There is no limit to the income you will generate from this business. You will not regret it.

Dare to think big. Your dreams will come true. Program yourself for success. Change your life forever.You will be glad you did. You won't be sorry.


Follow the directions exactly and it REALLY works. Just send 5 reports. Be patient.

Get what is rightfully yours. Program yourself for success and dare to think BIG.

It will only take a few minutes of your time. If you don't try it, you will never know!

Numbers do not lie! Just think of what would happen if even a small percentage reply.

TREMENDOUS OPPORTUNITY once you reach the 4th Level. It's not a chain letter but a perfectly legal MONEY-MAKING PHENOMENON.

There simply isn't a better investment with a faster return. Your road to financial freedom.

Testimonials from major cities with at least one name appended with designation of Esquire.

On the Lighter Side

Subject: Doggie Chain Letter

It works! It really, really works!

Are you experiencing too many reserves & second places to inferior animals in the dog show ring?

In the obedience ring, agility ring or field, does your dog forget his/her own name?

Well, this simple chain letter is meant to bring relief & happiness to you.

Unlike most chain letters, it doesn't cost money.

Simply send a copy to six other dog owners who are dissatisfied with the way their dogs are working & showing.

Also bundle up your dog & send him/her to the dog owner at the top of the list, & add your name to the bottom of the list.

In one week, you will receive 16,436 dogs, and at least one of them should be a keeper.

Have faith in this letter. DO NOT break the chain.

One owner broke the chain and GOT HIS OWN DOG BACK!!

Wishing Well Never Runs Dry


I found this on a bulletin board like this one and decided to try it. A little while back, I was browsing through a newsgroups, just like you are now, and came across an article similar to this that said you could make thousands of dollars within weeks with only an initial investment of $6.00!

So I thought, "Yeah right, this must be a scam", but like most of us, I was curious, so I kept reading. Anyway, it said that you need to send $1.00 to each of the 6 names and address stated in the article.

You then place your own name and address in the bottom of the list at #6, and post the article in at least 200 newsgroups. (There are millions)

No catch, that was it. So after thinking it over, and talking to a few people first, I thought about trying it. I figured: "what have I got to lose except 6 stamps and $6.00, right?"

Then I invested the measly $6.00. Well GUESS WHAT!!... within 7 days, I started getting money in the mail! I was shocked! I figured it would end soon, but the money just kept coming in.

In my first week, I made about $25.00. By the end of the second week I had made a total of over $1,000.00! In the third week I had over $10,000.00 and it's still growing.

This is now my fourth week and I have made just over $42,000.00 and it's still coming in rapidly.

It's certainly worth $6.00, and 6 stamps, I have spent more than that on the lottery!! Let me tell you how this works and most importantly, why it works.... Also, make sure you print a copy of this article NOW, so you can get the information off of it as you need it.

I promise you that if you follow the directions exactly, that you will start making more money than you thought possible by doing something so easy!

Suggestion: Read this entire message carefully! (print it out or download it.) Follow the simple directions and watch the money come in! It's easy. It's legal. And, your investment is only $6.00 (Plus postage)

IMPORTANT: This is not a rip-off; it is not indecent; it is not illegal; and it is virtually no risk - it really works!!!! If all of the following instructions are adhered to, you will receive extraordinary dividends.

PLEASE NOTE: Please follow these directions EXACTLY, and $50,000 or more can be yours in 20 to 60 days. This program remains successful because of the honesty and integrity of the participants.

Please continue its success by carefully adhering to the instructions. You will now become part of the Mail Order business. In this business your product is not solid and tangible, it's a service.

You are in the business of developing Mailing Lists. Many large corporations are happy to pay big bucks for quality lists. However, the money made from the mailing lists is secondary to the income which is made from people like you and me asking to be included in that list. Here are the 4 easy steps to success:

STEP 1: Get 6 separate pieces of paper and write the following on each piece of paper "PLEASE PUT ME ON YOUR MAILING LIST." Now get 6 US $1.00 bills and place ONE inside EACH of the 6 pieces of paper so the bill will not be seen through the envelope (to prevent thievery). Next, place one paper in each of the 6 envelopes and seal them. You should now have 6 sealed envelopes, each with a piece of paper stating the phrase "PLEASE PUT ME ON YOUR MAILING LIST.", your name and address, and a $1.00 bill.

What you are doing is creating a service. THIS IS ABSOLUTELY LEGAL! You are requesting a legitimate service and you are paying for it! Like most of us I was a little skeptical and a little worried about the legal aspects of it all.

So I checked it out with the U.S. Post Office (1-800-725-2161) and they confirmed that it is indeed legal! Mail the 6 envelopes to the following addresses....

STEP 2: Now take the #1 name off the list that you see above, move the other names up (6 becomes 5, 5 becomes 4, etc...) and add YOUR Name as number 6 on the list. STEP 3: Change anything you need to, but try to keep this article as close to original as possible.

Now, post your amended article to at least 200 newsgroups. (I think there are close to 2.4million groups) All you need is 200, but remember, the more you post, the more money you make! This is perfectly legal! If you have any doubts, refer to Title 18 Sec. 1302 & 1341 of the Postal lottery laws.

Keep a copy of these steps for yourself and, whenever you need money, you can use it again, and again. PLEASE REMEMBER that this program remains successful because of the honesty and integrity of the participants and by their carefully adhering to the directions.

Look at it this way. If you are of integrity, the program will continue and the money that so many others have received will come your way.

NOTE: You may want to retain every name and address sent to you, either on a computer or hard copy and keep the notes people send you. This VERIFIES that you are truly providing a service. (Also, it might be a good idea to wrap the $1 bill in dark paper to reduce the risk of mail theft.) So, as each post is downloaded and the directions carefully followed, six members will be reimbursed for their participation as a List Developer with one dollar each.

Your name will move up the list geometrically so that when your name reaches the #1 position you will be receiving thousands of dollars in CASH!!! What an opportunity for only $6.00 ($1.00 for each of the first six people listed above) Send it now, add your own name to the list and you're in business!


**REMEMBER, THE MORE NEWSGROUPS YOU POST IN, THE MORE MONEY YOU WILL MAKE!! BUT YOU HAVE TO POST A MINIMUM OF 200** That's it! You will begin receiving money from around the world within days! You may eventually want to rent a P.O.Box due to the large amount of mail you will receive.

If you wish to stay anonymous, you can invent a name to use, as long as the postman will deliver it. **JUST MAKE SURE ALL THE ADDRESSES ARE CORRECT.

** Now the WHY part: Out of 200 postings, say I receive only 5 replies (a very low example). So then I made $5.00 with my name at #6 on the letter. Now, each of the 5 persons who just sent me $1.00 make the MINIMUM 200 postings, each with my name at #5 and only 5 persons respond to each of the original 5, that is another $25.00 for me, now those 25 each make 200 MINIMUM posts with my name at #4 and only 5 replies each, I will bring in an additional $125.00!

Now, those 125 persons turn around and post the MINIMUM 200 with my name at #3 and only receive 5 replies each, I will make an additional $626.00! OK, now here is the fun part, each of those 625 persons post a MINIMUM 200 letters with my name at #2 and they each only receive 5 replies, that just made me $3,125.00!!!

Those 3,125 persons will all deliver this message to 200 newsgroups with my name at #1 and if still ONLY 5 persons per 200 newsgroups react I will receive $15,625,00! With an original investment of only $6.00! AMAZING!

When your name is no longer on the list, you just take the latest posting in the newsgroups, and send out another $6.00 to names on the list, putting your name at number 6 again. And start posting again. The thing to remember is: do you realize that thousands of people all over the world are joining the internet and reading these articles everyday?, JUST LIKE YOU are now!!

So, can you afford $6.00 and see if it really works?? I think so... People have said, "what if the plan is played out and no one sends you the money? So what! What are the chances of that happening when there are tons of new honest users and new honest people who are joining the internet and newsgroups everyday and are willing to give it a try? Estimates are at 20,000 to 50,000 new users, every day, with thousands of those joining the actual internet. Remember, play FAIRLY and HONESTLY and this will really work.

But Then Again Maybe It Won't

02/02 - To start off its recent crackdown against deceptive junk e-mail or "spam”the FTC announced settlements with seven defendants accused of running chain letter pyramid schemes via e-mail.

This one chain letter scam, run by seven individuals from California, Florida, and North Dakota, attracted at least 2,000 participants from nearly 60 countries by promising "$46,000 or more in the next 90 days."

It even challenged recruits, who questioned the legality of the program, to contact the FTC's associate director for marketing practices who, in fact, indignantly emphasizes that such chain letters are illegal.

“There's a certain common sense that consumers need to exercise here," associate director Eileen Harrington said. “If I knew how to make $50,000 in just a few hours in my spare time, I certainly wouldn't be telling you about it."

The FTC said it would soon send letters to more than 2,000 individuals who are still running the chain letter e-mail scam whose addresses were culled from the FTC’s spam database, which receives close to 15,000 individual pieces of forwarded spam each day.

Yet, even the FTC acknowledges the difficulty in shutting down spam operations that can be run with a home computer on a shoestring budget, to say nothing of the scams operating out of other countries.

A site devoted to Stop or Break the Chain Letters.

Scams Delivered by means other than Telemarketing or In-Person

Urban Legends

Chain Letter Examples