For decades chain letters have been making the rounds. These days they’re more likely to show up in your email than your post office box. Regardless of the process used, chain letters often have a common goal: to separate you from your money.
That money, by the way, can include cryptocurrencies such as bitcoin. In fact, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) recently announced a complaint against four people for promoting deceptive cryptocurrency schemes online. In two of these schemes, participants were required to use bitcoin or another cryptocurrency to pay for the right to recruit others. Typical of many fraudulent “opportunities,” no actual product or service exchanged hands. Using YouTube videos, social networking sites and conference calls, the promoters promised to pay participants in cryptocurrencies.
Whether you’re being asked to pay in bitcoins or dollars, don’t be fooled by claims that chain letters will generate outsized returns or free money.
How a typical chain letter works
Here's an example: Bob receives an email with a list of names. He’s told to send $5 to the person at the top of the list. He sends the money, removes the first name and adds his own name to the bottom of the list. He forwards the letter to seven more people. As his name moves up the list, he’s promised a huge return for a minimal contribution.
Newsflash: This is just another pyramid scheme.
Don't be a victim
There are several warning signs you can look for to protect yourself. Fraudulent chain letters will:
- Require you to send money and/or personal information to someone you don’t know
- Claim the U.S. Postal Service has given its approval
- Claim it’s not a hoax
- Promise to generate stellar returns using mysterious financial models
- Urge you to forward the message and suggests dire consequences if you don’t
- Contain numerous spelling or grammatical errors (a common indicator of fraud)
If you think you’ve received a bogus chain email, delete it. Don’t pass it on.