If you, like many of us, cringe when you get such a call, this page is for you--tell your friend that after he has read this page, you will give him your email.
There are a variety of things that such folks tend to do--for example, email you this great new application that they came across--my favorite such memory is a friend who took it upon himself to email me the entire netscape application.
So, here is my advice to the internet newbie. This is taken from a faq that I helped write for the ninpo-l mailing list page. Those who feel the urge to see it in its entirety can view it at the ninpo-l faq page. One person who read it sent me an email telling me that I was a jerk and not a very nice person. I thought of writing him back that actually, I was very nice. At any rate, here we go.
1. Big companies don't do business via chain letter. Bill Gates is not giving you $1000, and Disney is not giving you a free vacation. There is no baby food company issuing class-action checks. You can relax; there is no need to pass it on "just in case it's true". Furthermore, just because someone said in the message, four generations back, that "we checked it out and it's legit", does not actually make it true. 2. There is no kidney theft ring in New Orleans. No one is waking up in a bathtub full of ice, even if a friend of a friend swears it happened to their cousin. If you are hell-bent on believing the kidney-theft ringstories, please see: http://urbanlegends.tqn.com/library/weekly/aa062997.htm And I quote: "The National Kidney Foundation has repeatedly issued requests for actual victims of organ thieves to come forward and tell their stories. None have." That's "none" as in "zero". Not even your friend's cousin. 3. Neiman Marcus doesn't really sell a $200 cookie recipe. And even if they do, we all have it. And even if you don't, you can get a copy at: http://www.bl.net/forwards/cookie.html Then, if you make the recipe, decide the cookies are that awesome, feel free to pass the recipe on sans the Neiman Marcus story. 4. We all know all 500 ways to drive your roommates crazy, irritate co-workers and creep out people on an elevator. We also know exactly how many engineers, college students, usenet posters and people from each and every world ethnicity it takes to change a lightbulb. 5. Even if the latest NASA rocket disaster(s) DID contain plutonium that went to particulate over the eastern seaboard, do you REALLY think this information would reach the public via an AOL chain-letter? 6. There is no "Good Times" virus. In fact, you should never, ever, ever forward any email containing any virus warning unless you first confirm it at an actual site of an actual company that actually deals with viruses. Try: http://www.norton.com. And even then, don't forward it. We don't care. 7. If your CC: list is regularly longer than the actual content of your message, you're probably going to Hell. 7a. the same goes for your emails: if they're so long that you have to print them out and read them on the train ride home that evening!! 8. If you're using Outlook, IE, or Netscape to write email, turn off the "HTML encoding." Those of us on Unix shells can't read it, and don't care enough to save the attachment and then view it with a web browser, since you're probably forwarding us a copy of the Neiman Marcus Cookie Recipe anyway. I know you think it's really really kewl how you can send letters in different colors and with cute stationery, but it takes longer for the recepient to download, and they don't appreciate it. Honest, they really don't. Additionally, sending messages in rich html has been one way to pass viruses along--there are various viruses that would never have been passed along if there weren't so many idiots who think rich html is kewl. 9. If you still absolutely MUST forward that 10th-generation message from a friend, at least have the decency to trim the eight miles of headers showing everyone else who's received it over the last 6 months. It sure wouldn't hurt to get rid of all the spaces that begin each line. Besides, if it has gone around that many times I've probably already seen it. 10. Craig Shergold in England is not dying of cancer or anything else at this time and would like everyone to stop sending him their business cards. He apparently is also no longer a "little boy" either. If he had been dying of cancer, he'd be dead already. 11. Fortunately for me, I took sex education in HS (and got an A) so you can chill on some of those explicit-type emails...! 12. Of course you're sure that I'll be delighted to get that 4MB pornagraphic picture, or silly cartoon or software. Well, guess what? I have the software, and if I REALLY want to see pornography on the net I can find it, and I think that cartoon is stupid. I think it's really aggravating that I had to wait for ten minutes while I downloaded this file that I didn't need or want. Furthermore, I'm experienced enough on the internet to filter my email so that it won't download this file--so you are just wasting your time (and mine) watching your emailer struggle to send it. Another thing that is sure to make you feel foolish--from time to time, these internet hoaxes appear--such as the little girl dying from cancer, please send an email to everyone you know, etc. Anything suggesting that you send an email to everyone you know is usually fake. (By the way, I and others, who now consider themselves internet savy have fallen prey to such hoaxes.) One place to check on whether whatever particular plea is known to be a hoax is at http://www.nonprofit.net/hoax/hoax.html There is also an urban legends page--the link takes you its general area. Here's a measuring stick--if you can't find the particular thing you're looking for from the link above, you're probably too new to the internet to realize the difference between what's real and what isn't, and should save yourself some embarrassment by not posting whatever it is that you should "please send to everyone you know".