Another Chain Letter: Why This One Won’t Work, Either

pyramid scheme

“You must follow the simple instructions exactly, and in less than three months, you will receive $800,000. GUARANTEED,” promise the two identical, unsigned letters I received in the past month. That statement alone should make anyone skeptical – not only the promise of a return far beyond what even Warren Buffet can generate, but also the guarantee. Who is backing it? No one I’d trust, I’m sure.

I read the second letter carefully, curious about the pitch it was making. I found the basic elements of a typical get-rich-quick scheme. It offered a logical sounding (though somewhat vague) plan to bring in lots of money with very little work, a hard-to-resist lure. If I send a dollar to each of six people and send letters to others, asking them to do the same, this letter promises, my initial “investment” will increase exponentially.

But this letter has a few twists. It directly addresses some of the common arguments against chain letters, such as their illegality, their low rate of response, and their senders’ decreased reputation among friends and family. Specifically, when I send people money, I am to ask to be included on the person’s mailing list, and when I send out letters, I should buy a mailing list rather than sending the requests to people I know. “We’ve gotten around the problems of a typical chain letter,” this letter seems to say, but the plan is still bound to fail. It is a pyramid scheme at heart, and it will not work.

Just in case you get this same letter, consider the elements of this “improved” money-making plan and the reasons why you are more likely to lose money than make any:

First, the letter protests a bit too much about its legality: “In order to be completely legal, you must actually sell something in order to receive a dollar in return. So when you send a dollar to each of the names on the list, you include these words. ‘please put me on your mailing list’… The item you will receive for the dollar you send to the six people below is the letter…. When you send out these letters, you are in the mail order business. People are sending you $1.00 to be put on your mailing list. It is a legal, helpful service.” I am not a lawyer, but I fail to see how sending unsolicited “merchandise” of very little value in the hopes that someone will pay you for it qualifies as a legitimate business. It is not helpful, and I doubt it’s legal. Furthermore, I am already on the mailing list, so why should I pay a dollar to be added?

The letter also has a “new” solution to the problem of nay-saying friends and family. Not only does it recommend keeping my actions a secret until the “business” succeeds (good advice; I will save myself from some ridicule when it fails), it also tells me not to send them any of my letters. Instead, it tells me to buy a mailing list and suggests two companies from which I can get a list of people who “requested money making instructions within the last 45 days.” I recognized one as something I had signed up for in order to receive a related freebie – Home Business Magazine. I didn’t realize I was requesting “money making instructions” when I signed up.

To give the author some credit, the letter does address the fact that only a small portion of the people to whom I mail it will actually respond – its estimate is fifteen people out of every two hundred. The problem is, however, that everyone is working from the same pool of names. It’s possible that fifteen out of every two hundred people will respond to such a letter, but it’s doubtful that they will respond to multiple letters. Eventually, as with any pyramid scheme, the number of potential “entrepreneurs” quickly becomes negligible, and only those at the top of the pyramid have made any money. The letter also downplays the fact that I am still paying for the names, the printing, and the postage.

Just in case I’m not wowed by the idea of this “perfectly legal” business proposition I should postpone mentioning to my family and friends, the letter includes some helpful tips about managing a high volume of incoming mail and money. “Sow 10% of your income to charitable contributions (You reap what you sow). Save 20%, set aside 10% for next business project or mailing list. 10% for bills, 30% for taxes, and 20% to play with.” That’s not a bad budget plan, and it appeals to the recipients’ best intentions – the money for charity assures me I’m not being greedy, while the 10% for bills suggests that I will be living well below my means. However, anyone wise enough to know how to budget should also be wise enough not to fall for a get-rich-quick scheme.

As with any money-making opportunity, it’s important to evaluate the logic of the plan and research the reliability of the people involved in it before investing a dime. Take some time to learn about classic get-rich-quick schemes and how to recognize them to prevent being fooled by an old fraud in new clothing.

Image courtesy of cobalt123

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19 Responses to Another Chain Letter: Why This One Won’t Work, Either

  1. dan says:

    I don’t understand how anyone can fall for these things? But they keep circulating so someone must be making money…

  2. devilray says:

    I hate getting these emails. I wish there was a good way to stop them from coming.

  3. Georgia says:

    These are the most annoying things ever. They always fill up forums too.

  4. davidL says:

    has anyone tried this? please let me know

    Everyone who has tried it has lost money. That is the way these things work.

  5. gladys perez says:

    well i did it!i spent 197.00$,including the 6.00$ to the top of the list. i sent out my 197 letters (somehow i stuffed 197 envelopes vs 200)on 10-28-07.this is money i received unexpectly,so it’s money to blow,and it was a slow week, so i figuered, why not? anyway i’ll let you’ll know in about 3 weeks what happens.i think you should’nt knock it til you try it! lol

  6. ben says:

    “i think you shouldn’t knock it til you try it! lol”

    Except for the fact that it is illegal and constitutes mail fraud which can potentially land you in jail. Especially if you placed your real contact information on it.

  7. jeff says:

    why is it so illegal why the gov. not getting any part of their sare. if every one wouuld be on the same page together and go threw with it will work then the gov would have a bunch of rich people not paying taxes on it lol

  8. jeff says:

    i,ll tell why it,s illegal. it make to many postal worker get to much over time. and the union would be upset. then all the alot of people on gov. asst. would be short of alot of money. every one will be forced to go to work lol

  9. Stephanie says:

    Gladys Perez,

    It’s February 10, 2008, how did you do? You posted your last response on October 28, 2007.

  10. Nancy says:

    I got one today from a Robert Grybosh in Titusville, Florida. I don’t know a Robert Grybosh. What I want to know is where did he get MY address? I live in Michigan. Maybe he works at one of those telemarketer places and ripped off a bunch of addresses. I wonder if THAT is legal??????

  11. Lynda says:

    Why didn’t Gladys Perez ever come back and tell what happened when she tried the chain letter? Gladys, please let us know how it turned out!

  12. gladys perez says:

    Hi everyone,I spent $197.00 and received absolutely nothing in return.I obtained names and addresses via a mailbox service.totally legal..I don’t know who benefitted from this as these names are ramdom. Thank-you Lynda for asking.

  13. KageDrain says:

    I have recieved this letter not only once but twice. I haven’t had the urge to try it yet.


    How people get your address is by contacting a mailing list agency who sells it. Data Line is one, they claim the people on their list has requested Money Making Opportunities in the last month.

    I in fact have requested information probably 50 times at the least, this is why i keep getting the letters.

    They are interesting but seem sketchy.

  14. peter says:

    this is legal.! no i havnt tried it but ive been thinking about it.. and if ur wondering how they got ur email adress.? its cuz u put it out on the web at on point, u may not remember but u did,either for a catalog or something.. but its a risk to try it. u may make alot of cash or lose some.!

  15. Diamond says:

    Why didn’t my letter have a dollar in it? That’s how I know it was not real, I’m not sending a dollar in a letter when the one that i got didn’t have one in it. LMAO

  16. Brian says:

    Not true Buddy!!!! My close friend took the idea and letter from me and in 7 months he had recieved over $90,000 all in 1 dollar bills in his mailbox right in front of his duplex..
    I still hate that guy for taking my idea, my stamps, and my original mailing list!!!!

  17. Brian says:

    Its all a matter of who you send out your letter to and who really wants to throw down six (6)freaking dollars to take a risk of receiving money daily for servicing the list of interested quick buck fiennes..

  18. simonne says:

    thank you for being honest and truthful
    i actually am in the process of trying this now
    if i get my money back which was 6 dollars
    plus copy fees 77.00 plus stamps 90.00
    \plus the list at 56.00 i am happy breaking even

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