Chain mail: harmless fun or harassment?

chainTo some they are seen as a bit of harmless fun. A spreading of quaint little dittys, quotes and stories. To some they are an offer of hope, a teensy ounce of ‘just maybe’ you may come into untold riches within 30 minutes  of merely forwarding on to your 8 closest and dearest friends. To others they are a threat to safety, their reputation and to their freedom of choice.

Yes I am talking about the chain letter, or the modern versions…the chain email or SMS.

Now after many years of receiving these I have become very good at just pressing delete. I no longer feel any guilt that the sender will think I no longer care about them as I haven’t sent it back to them. I no longer think I am missing out on my pot of gold by refusing to clog my friends email inbox. I no longer think that it is worth a try to forward it on, just in case my phone may ring in 42 minutes with the most amazing life changing news.

But I am an adult. What happens when our kids get these persuasively written letters asking them to forward on or else? Recently a friend alerted me to one her daughter received and I know this is not an isolated example. The letter went like this:

Hi, I am Mr Poulter. Once you read this you cannot get out. Finish reading this until it is done! As I said, I am Mr Poulter. I am 32 years old. I have eyes and I can watch u with them. I am watching u. If you don’t send this to at least 12 people I will come to your house at midnight and I’ll hide under your bed. When you’re asleep, I’ll cuddle you. Don’t believe me? Case 1: Patty Buckles Got this e-mail. She doesn’t believe in chain letters. Well, Foolish Patty. She was sleeping when she started hearing noises from her cupboard. Now she’s not with us anymore. Ha ha patty, do u know what happened to patty I dragged her in my van and now she’s in my dungeon Ha ha! You don’t want to be like Patty, do you? Case 2: George M. Simon Hates chain mail, but he didn’t want to get cuddled in the night. He sent it to 4 people. Not good enough George. Now, George is in my dungeon, we don’t know if he’ll ever get out. Ha ha George, Ha ha! Now, do you want to be like George? ………

and well you get the idea.

So if your kids receive something like this or any chain letter for that matter.

  • Tell them to delete before they have finished reading it so they don’t feel the pressure of the threat or the hope
  • Explain that these are actually started to play havoc with your devices and spread viruses that have the potential to ruin your ipod, iphone or computer.
  • Remind them again that just because something is written, it does not mean it is true.
  • Continue to keep a check on what sorts of messages your kids are sending and receiving whilst online.


Whilst I am aware that many chain letters are harmless, I think it is a good idea to get our kids in to the habit of deleting this sort of stuff straight away. We need to teach them early the signs of spam and the many forms it can take.


Carly Findlay has written a post this week. One like-one prayer, which also addresses the guilt people feel when they read Facebook memes resulting from cyber impersonation and exploitation. We need to be really careful how we respond to these often persuasive calls to like, share and even donate. 

Have you or someone you know been conned by something online that wasn’t authentic?

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This Post Has 13 Comments

  1. It’s such a shame chain letters/emails have such a bad rap. I met one of my best friends through a chain letter where we sent the person at the top of the list a postcard! We were about 13 at the time – she in Christchurch, me in Brisbane. Over 30 years later we are not just penfriends, but BFF’s – we’ve met several times, in fact I was over there for her wedding in March.

    Would I like to be a cover girl?! Heck yeah! In fact, I have indeed been a magazine cover girl! I must confess though – I was the editor of the magazine LOL. You can even see for yourself at

    1. Ooops please ignore second paragraph – this is what happens when you are reading and commenting on a number of blogs via different tabs all at once 😉 Multi-tasking FAIL!

    2. Martine

      I love that you met someone like that and have had a lasting friendship. I guess times have changes however and the chain mail that arrived in our letterbox was very different to those churned out by anonymous people looking for a reaction.

  2. Lisa

    I’ve found my kids are actually more savvy about spam mail than I’d expected, they will often peer over my shoulder and say “That’s rubbish, mum, just delete it!”. The worst offenders are the elderly, it’s always my mum, mother-in-law, aunts etc. that seem to pass that sort of thing on!

    1. Martine

      Thats great that your kids are savvy about spam. And yes it is sad that often it is the elderly that appear more trusting.

  3. Emma

    That’s a bit of a scary chain letter! There seem to be a few blog based chain letter style things that get passed around, which are innocent in their intentions, but really no purpose at all!

    1. Martine

      Yes certainly, many are innocent, but I guess we also need to look at the things that are taking up our time and thoughts and decide whether they are worth it!

  4. Leanne Winter

    What a hideous letter. What the hell is wrong with these people? I also just delete as a matter of course but and my boys aren’t old enough yet for phones but I suppose it won’t be long. You’ve given me something to think about. Thanks Martine, I love your stuff.

    1. Martine

      Thanks Leanne, very kind. And yes just continue to press delete!

  5. I’m a deleter too and I don’t think my teens are using email very much. In fact they need a lesson in unsubscribing so they can actually see if there are any real emails for them. They think all of online lift is done via Facebook.

    Anyway, must keep an eye out for these odious chain mails. Yuck.

    1. Martine

      Yes I dont think many are using email as much but I have also seen them appear on other social networking sites as well as via text messages.

  6. Miss Capri

    Oh, this stupid Teddy Poulter hoax is still going around. Argh! I detest all chain letters, and have made it my mission to smash the heck out of them. Turns out not just for my own self-therapy to keep from going postal on people who sent me forwards, but it seems to be helping others to get over the fear of such bullying hoaxes as Teddy Poulter. I’m linking to your post in the Teddy-smash.

  7. The cyber cop

    Ppl need to be aware that forwarding these upsetting chain emails can result in criminal charges for those sending on. If someone is upset by an email you forward you get the blame. Not the person writing it be warned.

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