The Internet's First Get-Rich-Quick Scheme
Around 1987 or 1988, a student by the name of Dave Rhodes transcribed a pyramid scheme into a computer. I can't prove if that was the first time it had been done electronically, but by all accounts his chain letter is the "big daddy" of them all. I wouldn't be surprised if over a million copies of this classic scam (to say nothing of the other varieties) have gone out on Usenet, e-mail, and (rarer) web pages, and someone's probably spamming it as you read this. As I have learned in my job experience, human greed is boundless.
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So, with all of this e-mail floating around, did lots of people "earn" a bundle of money this way? No! Because, after putting his/her/its name on the bottom of the list and spamming the chain letter to Kingdom Come, there's actually no reason why the spammer has to send $5 (or whatever) to the name on the top of the list. Now think about it for a moment: despite anything these chain letters say, there's no practical way to keep track of who should have sent $5 but didn't, and there's no way to penalize anyone who didn't. That's right: even though the guy at the top of the list desperately wants the suckers who propagate the scam to send their money, the suckers have already distributed the chain letter and sending their measly cash to the top of the list won't affect whether or not they are going to get anything. And... would you mail $5 to someone if you didn't have to?
In other words, all these chain letters do is fill countless suckers with false hopes, waste lots of disk space and network bandwidth (which helps drive up prices at your friendly neighborhood Internet Service Provider), and annoy millions of people on a daily basis. The Dave Rhodes letter may be the first computer-distributed chain letter, but it has mutated over time as people added their hype, and there are some other variants undoubtedly inspired by it. The only difference between a chain letter and a computer virus is that the chain letter requires a human host to intentionally replicate it. Perhaps "meme" would be a nearer categorization for the phenomenon. Arguably, it even can be said to evolve -- a version which becomes garbled by line noise and imperfect copying is more likely to "die" (by being ignored), and the addition of more enticing text could help that strain flourish.
So, who is this Dave Rhodes, anyway? He was a student at Columbia Union College in Takoma Park, MD, a Seventh Day Adventist college. It looks like he copied a chain letter he received in the snail mail. And then it spread, infecting thousands of newsgroups uncountable times. Later, he apologized, but it is unknown whether or not the college disciplined him for his stupidity. This information comes to us from Elizi Danto, an acquaintance of Leroy Cain, the sysadmin of the mail system which Rhodes used. Hearsay has it that he went to Federal prison for the scam -- I don't know if it's true, but it should be. That's all I know about Dave Rhodes -- but wherever he is today, millions of Netizens would like to kick him in the dingleberries.
Handcuffs Up To $50,000 In Just 20 To 60 Days
It's Like A Dream Comes True!
Please be skeptical about this letter. Please be very, very skeptical.
FNORD But don't go away until you have carefully considered what I am about to show you. This can be the most important communication you will receive if you can understand and act upon this incredible opportunity to commit postal fraud.
This is a real opportunity to make money fast and begin your own business (HAHAHAHAHA!) at your computer. Read the info below and follow the guidelines and you can make enemies fast. This letter was given to me and I'm sharing it with you, even though you sure didn't ask for it. Give it a chance and you to will make the money you need to get the life you want. (And if you're foolish enough to believe this, then you DO need to get a life!) I have already seen the money coming in. (Yep, I just sent this letter, and now I'm telling you that the cash is rolling in already. You gotta BELIEVE me!) This takes very little time and is really working well so if you want to make a little extra cash and break the law by becoming my spam-slave, then go for it!
Dear Fool: My name is Dave Rhodes. In September 1988 my car was repossessed and the bill collectors were hounding me like you wouldn't believe. I was laid off and my unemployment checks had run out. The only escape I had from the pressures of being a failure was my computer and my modem. (Oh, and a can of Vaseline too.) I longed to turn my advocation into my vocation. In January 1989 my family and I went on a ten day cruise to the tropics. I bought a brand new Lincoln Town Car with CASH in February 1989. (Or was it a black Acura Integra? I keep forgetting.) I am currently building a new home on the west coast of Florida, with a private pool, boat slip, and a beautiful view of the bay from my breakfast room table and patio. I will never have to work again. Well, okay, so I'm just a dumb schmuck of a college student sitting at a teletype, making up stories and hoping that you'll believe them. But I'm trying, aren't I?
Today I am RICH! I have earned over $400,000.00 () to date and will become a millionaire within 4 or 5 months. Anyone can do the same. This money making program works perfectly every time, 100% of the time. I have NEVER failed to earn $50,000.00 or more whenever I wanted. Best of all, you never have to leave home except to go to your mailbox or post office. In October 1988, I received a letter in the mail telling me how I could earn $50,000.00 or more whenever I wanted. Oh, did I mention that I own the Brooklyn Bridge now? Anyone want to buy it from me? I was naturally very skeptical and threw the letter on the desk next to my computer. It's funny though, when you are desperate, backed into a corner, your mind does crazy things -- like thinking about passing along pyramid schemes. I spent a frustrating day looking through the want ads for a job with a future. The pickings were sparse at best. That night I tried to unwind by booting up my computer and calling several bulletin boards. I read several of the messages posted and then glanced at the letter laying next to the computer. Within moments, I was about to become the most hated Netizen in the world until Spamford Wallace claimed the title years later.
All at once it became clear to me. I now had the key to my dreams. I realized that with the power of the computer I could expand and enhance this money making formula into the most unbelievable spam generator that has ever been created. I substituted the computer bulletin boards in place of the post office and electronically did by computer what others were doing by mail. Most of the hard work is speedily downloaded to other bulletin boards throughout the world, and becomes the collective problem of their system administrators who will do their very best to make your life interesting. It's still postal fraud, but now I have the opportunity to anger more people than ever. Now only a few letters are mailed manually. If you believe that someday you deserve that lucky break that you have waited for all of your life, simply follow the easy instructions below. Your sysadmin WILL revoke your account.
Follow these instructions EXACTLY, and in 20 to 60 days you will have received well over $50,000.00 cash, all yours. This program has remained successful because of the HONESTY and INTEGRITY of the participants. If you feel that the terms "honesty and integrity" are a little ironic, given that this is considered fraudulent in most countries of the world, never mind that for a moment. Please continue its success by carefully ADHERING TO THE INSTRUCTIONS. (Okay, I have no way of knowing whether or not you really do send money to the addresses below, but why don't you be a good sport and send me cash that I don't deserve.) Welcome to the World of Mail Fraud! This little business is somewhat different than most mail order houses. Your product is not solid and tangible, but rather a crime. You are in the business of developing Mailing Lists. So what if the judge doesn't see it that way, just send me your CASH, slave! Man large corporations are happy to pay big bucks for quality lists. (The money made from the mailing lists is secondary to the income which is made from people like yourself requesting that they be included in that list.) If you're lucky, your puny list of addesses might be worth a nickel to some retailer somewhere.
- IMMEDIATELY mail $1.00 to the first 5 names listed below, starting at number 1 through number 5. SEND CASH ONLY. (Total investment: $5.00) Enclose a note with each letter stating: "Please add my name to your mailing list. Me too! Send me some!" Include your name and mailing address. (This is a legitimate service that you are requesting and you are paying $1.00 for this service.)
- REMOVE the name that appears as number 1 on the list. Move the other 4 names up one position (Number 2 becomes number 1, number 3 becomes number 2, and so on). Place your name, address, and zip code in the number 5 position.
- With your name in the number 5 position, upload this ENTIRE file to 10 (ten) different bulletin boards. You may post it to the BBS's message base or to the file section. Name it FASTCASH.TXT, and use the file description comments to draw attention to this file and its great potential for all of us. The sysadmin will probably delete it right after revoking your account, but you never know, right?
- Within 60 days you will receive over $50,000.00 in CASH. Keep a copy of this file for yourself so that you can use it again and again whenever you need money. As soon as you mail out these letters you are automatically in the mail order business. People will be sending YOU $1.00 to be placed on your mailing list. This list can then be rented to a broker that can be found in your local yellow pages listings for additional income on a regular basis. The list will become more valuable as it grows in size. This is a service. ** IT IS PERFECTLY LEGAL ** IF SOMETHING IS IN CAPITAL LETTERS, THAT MAKES IT REALLY LEGAL ** If you have any doubts as to the legality of this service, please refer to Title 18, Sections 1302 and 1341 of the Postal Lottery Laws. Remember when I told you that I was a professional debtor and now I'm about to become a millionaire? Well, by the way, I'm a lawyer too. Really I am.
NOTE: Make sure that you retain EVERY name and address sent to you, either on computer or hard copy, but do not discard the names and notes that people send to you. This is PROOF that you are truly providing a service, and should the I.R.S. or some other government agency questions you, you can provide them with this proof! Doesn't the prospect of being interrogated by the law for passing on my stupid pyramid scheme send a tingle up your spine?
Remember, as each post is downloaded and the instructions carefully followed, five members will be reimbursed for their participation as a List Developer with $1.00 each. Your name will move up the list geometrically so that when your name reaches the number 5 position you will be receiving thousands of dollars in cash. At least I hope it works out like that; my lawyer is threatening to stop defending me if I can't pay the bill.
REMEMBER - THIS PROGRAM FAILS ONLY IF YOU ARE NOT HONEST - PLEASE!!
PLEASE BE DISHONORABLE...IT DOES SUCK! THANK YOU, FOOL!
From: Fortune Distributions(Tom@mail.stupid.edu)
Hello there, Read this: It works!
Fellow Debtor: This is going to sound like a con, but in fact IT WORKS! TRUST ME! HAHAHAHAHA! The person who is now #4 on the list was #5 when I got it, which was only a few days ago. Five dollars is a small investment in your future. Forget the lottery for a week, and give this a try. It can work for ALL of us. You can edit this list with a word processor or text editor, and be another dumb amateur spammer just like me.
The following letters were written by participating morons in this program.
To Whom It May Concern:
About six months ago I received the enclosed post in letter form. I ignored it. I received about five more of the same letter within the next two weeks. I ignored them also. Of course, I was tempted to follow through and dreamed of making thousands, but I was convinced it was just another gimmick and could not possibly work. I was stupid enough to change my mind! About three weeks later I saw this same letter posted on a local bulletin board in Montreal. I liked the idea of giving it a try with my computer. I didn't expect much because I figured, if other people were as skeptical as I, they wouldn't be stupid enough to part with Five Dollars. But, I buy lottery tickets weekly in my province and have nothing to show for it but ticket stubs. This week I decided to look at this as my weekly lottery purchase. I addressed the envelopes and mailed out one dollar in each as directed. Two weeks went by and I didn't receive anything in the mail. The fourth week rolled around and I couldn't believe what happened! I can't say I received $50,000, but it was definitely well over $35,000! Okay, so it was only six measly dollars -- but I'm allowed a little poetic license, aren't I? Then the Mounties showed up. For the first time in ten years, I got put in jail. It's been great these last couple days, sharing a cell with a hairy biker who doesn't take showers. Yesterday, he asked me if I thought he was handsome. Today, he said my mouth is pretty. I wonder what he means by that.
Of course, it didn't take me long to go through my earnings -- since I really only got chump change -- so I am stupid enough to use this lame-brained money opportunity once again, as soon as I get out of jail. Follow the instructions and get ready to enjoy.
Please send a copy of this letter along with the enclosed spam so together we can convince people who are skeptical that it really works!
Charles the Simple
St Agathe Que.
I tried a similar program in which the cost was $5.00 per response. In that one the return was about 3%. Since I did not have a modem I sent out letters regular mail. I created a few mailing labels and printed out all of the labels on pressure sensitive tape. The first mailing that I used the $1.00 per response approach I started to get return mail in just over one week! I sent out 200 letters instead of 100 that is required if you use the mail instead of the bulletin boards. Additionally, I included as many friends, relatives, classmates, that I could think of in order to encourage their participation if they happened to recognize my name, in hopes that my percentage of gain would be higher. Now they hate me and think I'm a fool. I am trying again with 500 letters to see if I surpass the $14 of the last time. You just won't believe it until you try. You won't believe it later either, but why not just SEND ME THE DAMN MONEY?!?!?
This system sucks just as much if mailed out manually. Mind you it takes more effort to hand address the envelopes and the cost goes up proportionately to cover the postage and envelopes. At least you won't lose your Internet account, though. You must also photo copy the instructions, cross out the name in number one position, write in your name in the number five and change the rest of the numbers accordingly. (It might be neater to use white out or paste over the names.) In order to achieve the same results you must send out the $1.00 to the first five names and then send out another 100 letters with copies of the program enclosed. It has been suggested not to put a return address on the outside of the envelope in order to encourage the recipient to open it. The return will approximate that then received from the posts listed on the bulletin boards.
Hi all, I will not say my name, as I wish to remain anonymous, but I have something to say. IT SUCKS. I am THE most skeptical person on the face of the earth. I saw this, and say -=BS=- ..no way... impossible.. then my friend told me he did it.. he said he made about 50 bucks.. I said no way.. he called me a chicken until I decided, what the ****, I can't let people think I'm a chicken... I sent out my 5 bucks, and Sent this godawful spam to about a 400 people, not to BBS's, just E-mail. Somebody got even and signed me up to hundreds of E-mail lists, including the Shaved Gerbils listserv, and it's taken me hundreds of hours to unsubscribe. 3 weeks went by, and I FINALLY got ONE dollar in the mail. It has been about 3 months since that day I got my first dollar, and now every day when I go to get my E-mail, there are about a dozen spams in my box waiting for me, just like the one I sent out. I wish I would have made even 300 dollars for all the trouble it's been. I dunno about that guy and his 50 thous., but if someone offered you 300 dollars for five, would you be stupid enough to believe it?
Do this guys...it SUCKS!!!
Good Luck, shmuck :)
Another imbecile writes:
Hey.... I'm one of the people who downloaded this awhile ago, and I've made quite a profit...not 50,000 dollars, but TONS more than the 5 bucks I sent in. TRUSTME TRUSTME TRUSTME TRUSTME TRUSTME! It might take more than 60 days to get $50,000, but I think I can wait.
ANOTHER ADDITION BY A PARTICIPATING FOOL
PLEASE just try this and do it right it's only 5 dollars and its legal (snort), but DON'T try to cheat the system or you are cheating yourself! WHAT HAVE YOU GOT TO LOSE, A MAXIMUM OF $5! (Well, okay, you can lose your Internet account and gain the attention of the local postal fraud inspector, but what the heck?) JUST TRY IT! SPREAD IT EVERYWHERE, THE MORE YOU SPREAD THE MORE ENEMIES YOU MAKE! THIS SUCKS!!!
!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I AM ELVIS !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! DO IT...!!!!!!!!!!
THIS IS REAL AND LEGAL. AND IF YOU DO NOT FOLLOW THE DIRECTIONS EXACTLY, THAT MEANS I DO NOT RECEIVE ANY OR LITTLE MONEY. DO NOT BLAME IT ON THE MAILING LIST NAMES. JUST INCLUDE YOUR NAME OR WHERE YOU GOT THIS TEXT FILE FOR EXAMPLE AMERICA ON LINE ETC... ALSO THE NAMES ON THIS LIST HAVE NOTHING TO DO WITH IF YOU GET YOUR MONEY OR NOT. IT IS GUARANTEED YES THAT YOU WILL GET YOUR MONEY BUT THIS PROTECTS ALL NAMES ON THIS TEXT FILE. Yep, I'm a licensed financial advisor: really I am. AND JUST REMEMBER IT IS NOT OUR FAULT THAT YOU READ THE DIRECTIONS WRONG AND DID NOT RECEIVE ALL YOUR MONEY. IF YOU DID NOT SEND IN ONE DOLLAR TO EACH 5 NAMES THAT WILL MAKE IT SO ALEX GREENWALD PLEASE FOLLOW THE DIRECTIONS EXACTLY THIS IS NOT SCAM REMEMBER........... ALSO PUT YOUR NAME AS #5 AND UPLOAD IT TO 10-100 BBS'S. DO NOT DELETE #'S 1-4 (or use four mail drops for yourself, the way I did) YOUR # IS 5!!!!!!!
THE WAY THIS WORKS DISHONESTLY IS THE MORE YOU SPREAD THE FILE AROUND THE MORE SUCKERS YOU GET TO DO THIS, WHICH MEANS THE MORE FLAME MAIL YOU GET!!
Here are the names to send to:
1.Joe Putzske: 456 Nutcase Rd. St. Joe, MN 56374
2.Roanld W. Dim: 1186 Canterbury RD. Baltimore Maryland 21234
3.Huey-Ping Dumb: P. O. Box 2441675, Norman, OK 73070
4.Swee-Joo Meloveyoulongtime: 1313 East Brooks St. #1614, Norman, OK 73069
5.Mike Deathbreath: 461350 Millstone Cove. Crestview, FL 32539
***********Don't forget, the more letters you send out the more money you
earn, so anger as many people as possible! :)**************
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