The Art Of Chain Mail

July 29, 2008

As the web, the greatest communication portal ever constructed, continues to flourish, email made its mark in hundreds of millions of people’s lives wordwide. And what has started as a simple one line text message relayer, email has now become so flexible you can send almost whatever the heck you want to anyone’s address you want. And because of this, email has been one of hackers and identity stealer’s greatest assets. But almost as bad, however, is the ever-growing art of — yes — chain mail. You’ve seen it. You’ve deleted it. But, if your gullible enough, you’ve probably been fooled by it. As a 13 year old, I get about two chain mails a day or more in my spam, and (since I like to think I’m not very gullible) I delete them. But interestingly enough, they come back. This is because other people who fell for the chain letter and put down their email address. The sender is getting more success, so he sends more chain mail. And according to my study (which you will here about later in the post) he will then send out the money bags. 

I have encountered many different kids of chain mail, two in particular. The first, which you probably have seen if you are a emailer, is the most common of chain mails — the multiplier. When it reaches you, it will probably have over 1,000 followers of about the same age as you. If you are a young teen…the mail will probably start out with the name and email of the person who forwarded the email to you. He or she will have to be someone with your email address, so it will probably be someone you know. Then, below that, there will probably be a message on on a topic that is supposed to be either tempting, gut wrenching, or anything else that will make you interested. For me, the message almost 90% of the time is something relationship centered. It will start on with a really cheesy story of a couple where one cheated on one, or one didn’t pass on a chain mail, or one did something like move to Greenland. Then they break up, who ever cheated or didn’t pass it on gets stung by killer bees or someone gets fired or the girl turns out to be Mr. T, or Kimbo Slice and beats the heck out of the guy. Then, you have to scroll down for suspense, and another message appears. This is guaranteed to be some sort of threat about how if you don’t forward this to 10 more people, you will get bad luck, you will have some sort of relationship problems, or you’ll get beat up. Sadly, as retarded as this sounds, people actually find themselves to believe that if they don’t forward, all those things will happen. And because of this, the ten people that they send to will most likely be you. 

After maybe three weeks of the chain mail going on, the original sender will look over an updated copy of the email with maybe, 3,000 or 4,000 emails on it. Now, this is where the sender makes his pay. He could, using the IP, name, and email one of his gullible senders, hack their computers, take everything on it, and then plant a virus. As one of the people who have witnessed something like this live, you can put the above sentences in consideration before you plant you name and address on a random email. But the second, non lethal thing that he will try after the original chain mail is something called the pyramid, which was mentioned as the money bag method earlier. 

This method is primarily used on adults, but I have seen it pulled off with kids, too. The sender, now with about 10,000 addresses, will (for example) send an email to 5,000 of them saying that the DOW will go down the next day. Then, to the other 5,000 how will send a similar email reading the DOW will go up the next day. He will make all his emails look like they are only written to each and everyone of his recipients, so the recipients will not suspect this is a massive chain letter. Then, the next day, the sender will look at the Wall Street, see how the DOW did, and then to the 5,000 letters that were correct, he will split them in half and repeat the same method, for instance claiming that Apple stock will go down. He will repeat until he has about 100 email addresses who have gotten correct information maybe, 10 or 11 times (I’m not in algebra yet, so spare me). Then he will send emails to all of them claiming either he is magic or more likely, he is an inside man who knows how the stock will favor every single day. Then he will entice the 100 people, and then offer to give them a detailed description of how stock will go every morning for an entire year — but for the price of $50,000 dollars. In an ideal world, he will probably get about 70 of those people to give him the money, then he will disappear to Brazil and live off of his cash there. 

Although this seems, far fetched, this has happened numerous times. My point? The next time a chain mail comes you way, think twice about where your information will be going.

As a Los Angeles resident for over 13 years now, I have been accustomed to the two alternate worlds of LA: Beverly Hills, and everywhere else. Recently I made a few trips of longer duration to this hub of stars, and while browsing the shops, I noticed two things. First, the prices, and what they were selling. When it comes to Beverly Hills, the myth is definitely true — everything is overpriced. But, being the teen I am, shopping is not exactly my expertise, so I have never before hit up any of the top notch appointment-only stores in the Hills. But when I first entered these stores and took a look at the price tags, I was blown away. As a southern Californian traveler, I have been accustomed some pretty outrageous stuff around here, but nothing like what was going on over in the BH. Highlights of the store that I browsed while I was wandering included $4,000 Italian motorbike jackets, $40,000 dresses, and my favorite — a $450 cotton undershirt. Now I do understand that this clothing they are selling is the real deal, high quality fabrics, comfortable feel, ect. — but the 450 buck undershirt really struck me as something I may have 10 of in my dresser that was bought for under 5 dollars or less at a popular Polo in a Santa Monica shopping mall. So I made two conclusions: people who buy this stuff are either the filthy rich Los Angeles .com billionaires who own the multiple Ferraris and Gallardos outside, or regular income people who just want to look filthy rich. The answer…was neither. 

The second thing I noticed was who was shopping at these stores. Not only did I not see one resident of Southern California in the stores besides the employees, but everyone in the store wasn’t even from the West — mostly not even America. And at that moment the awful truth struck me — these people (who were actually buying this stuff relentlessly) had fallen under the misconception that makes places like Vegas so famous. If you are looking at a stereotype movie shown about Los Angeles, it is almost guaranteed to show the juiciest parts of LA — the expensive shops that the not even the actors in real life would shop at. My point? To foreigners, Los Angeles is Beverly Hills, and it would be like going to Vegas and not visiting a casino to not feed off of the Hills. In fact, for the average tourist I saw there (a Japanese couple and their two sons), it would be virtually impossible to see the real essence of the great city of Los Angeles without a local to show you away from the luring lies of Beverly Hills, and into the real Los Angeles — the city. For example, when I visit South America in a few weeks, (as an American) I will most certainly be shown into the finest of hotels and dining, probably missing what is really what the whole city is about — digging deep into the rich history and life of the places I will be traveling to. This is the exact same feeling that couple from Japan probably was lured into when traveling to Los Angeles. 

I am not claiming that Beverly Hills is bad for the city, it is an important asset of Los Angeles’s culture. But I encourage all travelers who may be reading this to find someone local and stay away from the tour busses that only shuttle to the glamorous stops, but to really go into Los Angeles and learn — not necessarily the history of the city, but the culture and the town hubs that really show what LA is all about to me — the greatest city ever.

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