I got an email forward today, titled "This is So SAD" or something like that. After I'd scrolled through the list of people who had forwarded it to others, who had forwarded it on and so on, I got to the meat of the message, which started off "Alexandra came out of a rigging fire alive, but now has to fight for her life and a normal future. She is 14 months old and..."
And it went on, describing the anguish of baby Alexandra and her parents. What got me thinking was the last line, which said something like baby Alexandra will get 3 cents for every person to whom the mail is forwarded.
How would anyone know I'd forwarded the email? How would they know to whom I'd forwarded it (in order to know to how many).
Now, if you think about it, that's a scary thing. In order to know if, and to whom, I'd forwarded the email, they'd need access to my email account. And that's supposed to be private, right?
Now I KNOW there's no way third parties can access my emal account to find out if I've forwarded anything but I decided to play safe and check the net to see if I'm wrong.
First I found the Trend Micro report that confirmed the email was a hoax. Like I knew, there was no way anyone could know about mail forwards, so there was no question of sending 3 cents to Alexandra's parents if I did forward the email.
Then I found something horrific. The story had apparently been taken from the World Healing Network, which asks people to pray for people in need. Whether one believes in the power of prayer or not, here was a true story taken from a genuine site and spun into a MINDLESS email forward. Think of what Alexandra's parents will go through if and when they find out someone is using their personal pain to send a fraudulent email around the world.
One might argue that at least this way, more people come to know of the tragedy. However, the email doesn't ask anyone to pray for Alexandra or to send money. It asks them to mindlessly forward the email and Alexandra will receive the money anyway. For most people, this is a convenient balm for the soul. "Hey," one thinks, "I did my part. I forwarded it."
But think a little bit more. Every time the email gets forwarded, more email addresses get added into the body of the message. Sooner or later, it will get posted to a public message board, email addresses and all, making each email address available to spammers and pornographers.
Is that what you want?
A baby's tragedy to be used to harvest email addresses?
NEVER forward anything without checking. If you don't know how to check, ask me.
At the very least, read more on Mind Viruses and Hoax Emails. The Internet Virus Antidote is a good place to start.