Legal chain letters? Think again.

I’ve noticed a huge proliferation of chain letters recently. I saw a ton of them posted on various forums all the way from Scam.com to AARP.org. Desperate people want to believe that chain legals are legal. Well, the fact is – chain letters are NOT legal no matter how you slice it.

From the Federal Trade Commission:

The Lowdown on Chain Letters

Everybody’s received them – chain letters or email messages that promise a big return on a small investment. The promises include unprecedented good luck, mountains of recipes, or worse, huge financial rewards for sending as little as $5 to someone on a list or making a telephone call. The simplest chain letters contain a list of names and addresses, with instructions to send something – usually a small sum of money – to the person at the top of the list, remove that name from the list, and add your own name to the bottom of the list. Then, the instructions call for you to mail or email copies of the letter to a certain number of other people, along with the directions of how they should “continue the chain.” The theory behind chain letters is that by the time your name gets to the top of the list, so many people will be involved that you’ll be inundated with whatever the chain promises to deliver. One recently circulated email chain letter promised earnings of “$50,000 or more within in the next 90 days of sending email.” Whether you receive a chain letter by regular mail or email – especially one that involves money – the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) reminds you that:

The U.S. Postal Inspection Service offers information about chain letters at www.usps.gov/websites/depart/inspect . Or you can call the Postal Inspection Service toll-free, 1-888-877-7644

The FTC works for the consumer to prevent fraudulent, deceptive, and unfair business practices in the marketplace and to provide information to help consumers spot, stop, and avoid them. To file a complaint or to get free information on consumer issues, visit ftc.gov or call toll-free, 1-877-FTC-HELP (1-877-382-4357); TTY: 1-866-653-4261. The FTC enters consumer complaints into the Consumer Sentinel Network, a secure online database and investigative tool used by hundreds of civil and criminal law enforcement agencies in the U.S. and abroad.

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Comments

  1. Alan Reed says:

    I understand that chain letters are illegal and that promises of big money are probably bogus.

    However, I would like to join one for a small amount of money – about $3 sent to 6 people. If I join this chain, do I risk being arrested, fined and/or jail time?

    Alan

  2. Alan,

    Yes it’s possible you could serve jail time.

    I highly recommend you read the comments from Lyndell Edgington in this discussion at the forum

  3. Alan Reed says:

    Thanks, Paul. I have decided to bag it.

    Al

  4. You’re welcome Alan.

  5. Vanessa says:

    Sometimes people make it scary but are they true?

  6. (((can someone straighten this situation once and for all!? because justice.gov clearly a government website says its not illegal as long as the chain letter remains truthful in their intentions. and the chain letter i came across though may not actually get you $600,000 in three months they still shows it is possible to get $600,000. and if people are getting $600,000 and more i feel bad for you people who are just to scared to take a risk. its a gamble that what gambling is taking risk, and these site states that it is legal. but do not condone that people actually go out and try it, but they cant hold nothing against legitimate chain letters because it would go against the first amendment. The First Amendment The amendment prohibits the making of any law “respecting an establishment of religion”, impeding the free exercise of religion, infringing on the freedom of speech, infringing on the freedom of the press, interfering with the right to peaceably assemble or prohibiting the petitioning for a governmental redress of grievances.))) http://www.justice.gov/olc/18usc1302.htm (((and check out))) http://www.justice.gov/olc/2000opinions.htm (((scroll down until you see ENFORCEABILITY OF 18 U.S.C. § 1302
    18usc1302)))somebody finally straighten things out for me. in my opinion i think the whole chain letter thing was blown out of proportion because the trend caught on and got diluted by media and people who turn them into “scams”

  7. i don’t know maybe the site was updated since then, but can somebody give me more insights on this situation?

  8. http://www.justice.gov/olc/18usc1302.htm if you go here the beginning says… {{{This is to inform you of the Department of Justice’s determination that, in light of governing Supreme Court precedent, the Department cannot constitutionally continue to apply 18 U.S.C. § 1302 to prohibit the mailing of truthful information or advertisements concerning certain lawful gambling operations.}}} this states the department CANNOT prohibit “certain truthful and lawful” gambling operations major point right here. CERTAIN TRUTHFUL AND LAWFUL OPERATIONS, cannot be prohibited by 18 U.S.C. § 1302.

  9. but since this was in 2000 maybe it has been updated. so please give me insights.

  10. http://www.justice.gov/olc/2008/state-conducted-lotteries101608.pdf if you read this pdf it says this law is… codified as amended at 18 U.S.C. § 1302 (2000) (prohibiting the use of the mails for lottery-related purposes); {{{codify To arrange or systematize. amended To change for the better; improve: amended the earlier proposal so as to make it more comprehensive.
    2. To remove the faults or errors in; correct. See Synonyms at correct.
    3. To alter (a legislative measure, for example) formally by adding, deleting, or rephrasing.}}} so 18 U.S.C. § 1302. was codified as amended as of 2000 to certain truthful and lawful gambling operations. therefore making SOME “not all” of these so called scam letters perfectly legal.

  11. on the pdf it says that on page 2 to be precise,so you people posting these blogs, probably tore down millions on people dreams to become successful and living the life they wanted. and you too, because of your unbelief you may have lost an opportunity to maybe become rich. there are poor people out there everyday this can be a perfect opportunity for them to make some money. but people these days people are so corrupt and hellbent and you people who think you all are exposing the truth are not helping matter get better. maybe you are rich and know this but you post blogs saying its a scam so people can believe you, when all along you may be running a “scam” business too.

  12. so if and only IF,these letters were perfectly legal that just wrong what you people have done to millions of lives. but i agree they are a risk, but that what gambling is… point blank and a period.

  13. to be more clear. Congress in the 1890s made it a crime to sell or advertise lotteries through the mail or through interstate commerce. See Act of Sept. 19, 1890, (prohibiting the use of the mails for lottery-related purposes)(in the 1980s)but is now codified as amended at 18 U.S.C. § 1302 of year 2000.

  14. typo above(in the 1890s)

  15. http://www.justice.gov/olc/2008/state-conducted-lotteries101608.pdf again read on this site. {{{After thorough consideration of the matter, I have concluded that the application of 18 U.S.C. § 1302 to the mailing of truthful advertising concerning lawful gambling operations (except as to state-operated lotteries in some circumstances, see p.8, infra) would be unconstitutional. I have further concluded that, because of such unconstitutionality, the Department should no longer enforce the statute against such mailings.}}} they made mailing these unconstitutional. unconstitutional – Not in accord with the principles set forth in the constitution of a nation or state. so these mailing are not in accordance with the constitution and therefore cannot receive punishment. but there are fraud letters out there not all are legal, so just be alert. so imagine how many legal opportunities people through out everyday, without knowing their financial could be at the tip of their fingertips. hmmmmmmm.

  16. {{{financial dreams}}}

  17. scratch the link above. >>> http://www.justice.gov/olc/18usc1302.htm hey nobody’s perfect.

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