We all receive them from time to time, either in the mailbox or though unsolicited computer messages. The author promises you huge financial rewards for sending just a small amount of money to someone on a list.
A harmless game of chance, like buying a lottery ticket? Your ticket to easy money? Actually, it's neither. It's a scam, and it's also illegal.
Here's how these chain letters typically work: You get a letter which includes a list of names and addresses, and you're instructed to send money, often as little as $5, to the person at the top of list. Then, you're told to cross off the name at the top of the list, add your name to the bottom and mail the list to everyone you know. The idea is that the new people who get the list from you will repeat the process, and by the time your name gets moved to the top of all of the lists floating around, dozens, hundreds or even thousands of people will be sending you $5 each. Some chain letters claim that participants can make $50,000 or more from just a $5 investment.
Sounds simple enough. But there are big problems with this sort of thing. As there is no real product or service being exchanged, chain letters that involve money or other items of value are nothing more than a form of gambling. Chain letters also are illegal. If you start a chain letter, or even participate in one sent to you, you could be breaking the law.
In actuality, chain letters are no different than pyramid schemes. Both are fraudulent systems of making money that require an endless stream of recruits for success. Obviously, this is impossible. Therefore, the chances of you receiving anything in return are slim. Most people will receive nothing. In fact, some of these chain letters are so crooked that the person starting them will list themselves numerous times by using different names and different addresses to give the impression that many people are participating. In reality, all of the money in the chain is going to one person.
The bottom line is that chain letters don't work because the promise that all participants in a chain will be winners is mathematically impossible. It's just another scam designed to take your money. The results of these schemes is inevitable: They make money only for the first few on the list. Everyone else loses their investment.
Don't be fooled by the lure of easy money. No matter how you cut it, participating in a chain letter is a bad idea.