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Amy Bruce Charity Hoax

Summary:
Email claims that 7-year-old Amy Bruce is dying of lung cancer and a brain tumour and that the Make-A-Wish Foundation will donate money every time the email is forwarded (Full commentary below.).



Status:
False

Example:(Submitted, July 2007)
Subject: A 7 year old cancer patient

Amy Bruce Email Graphic
Hi, my name is Amy Bruce.

I am 7 years old, and I have severe lung cancer . I also have a large tumor in my brain, from repeated beatings. Doctors say I will die soon if! this isn't fixed, and my family can't pay the bills. The Make A Wish Foundation, has agreed to donate 7 cents for every time this message is sent on. For those of you who send this along, I thank you so much, but for those who don't send it, what goes around comes around. Have a Heart, please send this.

Please, if you are a kind person, send this on.

PLEASE HIT FORWARD BUTTON NOT REPLY BUTTON.

YOUR'S FAITHFULLY,
AMY BRUCE

amy.bruce@[removed]




Commentary:
This absurd hoax message first began circulating way back in 1999 and is still being passed from inbox to inbox years later. The information presented in the email is a total fabrication. There is no 7-year-old Amy Bruce who is dying of both lung cancer and a brain tumour. Furthermore, the Make-A-Wish Foundation is certainly not donating money every time the email is forwarded. The Make-A-Wish Foundation would never lend its support to such a ridiculous email-based charity campaign. In fact, the organization has a page on its website debunking the Amy Bruce hoax and a long list of other similar hoaxes.

Later versions of the hoax include a graphic of a child's face (shown in above example) along with other decorative element such as a dancing angel animation. Some newer versions also include a photograph of a dark-skinned child with pig-tails. Since the real identity of the child in the photograph is unknown and her image may have been added to the hoax without the permission or knowledge of her parents, I have not included it here.

The concept of individual emails being "tracked" as they journey through cyberspace is a common theme among hoax emails. The only way to keep track of the random journeys of a particular email would be to embed some sort of hidden script in the email. To be effective, this hidden script would have to remain intact and working through thousands of subsequent forwardings. In reality, the message would be very unlikely to remain in a format that allowed the script to continue working for long. Moreover, many modern email programs would remove or disable any sort of tracking script for security reasons. Thus, it would be simply impossible to collect any accurate or meaningful data about an email that could ultimately be forwarded many thousands of times and therefore impossible to calculate the amount of money to be donated.

In any case, tracking an email in the way described would be considered by many to be a significant privacy infringement and it is highly unlikely that any ethical charity organization would knowingly participate in such a practice. Furthermore, it is absurd to suggest that any responsible organization would base the amount to be donated on how many times an email was forwarded. There is simply no valid reason whatsoever for imposing such a cruel and callous restriction. If an organization is willing and able to offer financial help, they will do so directly and the amount donated will not depend on the random forwarding of an email. Any message that claims an email is being tracked and that money will be donated for every forward is virtually certain to be a hoax.

There have been a long series of hoaxes similar to the one discussed here. Another hoax that uses the same tactic is the Debbie Shwartz Charity Hoax, which also claims that money will be donated every time an email is forwarded. As well, the Jasmine Thomas Charity Hoax claims the American Red Cross will donate money when the email is passed on.

Hoaxes like these do nothing more than cause trouble for our charitable organizations. Charities such as the Make-A-Wish Foundation have to devote valuable resources to answering queries about their supposed involvement. If you receive one of these hoax messages, please delete it without forwarding and ensure that you let the sender know its true status.

Example submitted in 2005:
Subject: A 7 year old cancer patient

If you delete this then shame on you!

Hi, my name is Amy Bruce. I am 7 years old, and I have a large tumor on my brain and severe lung cancer. The doctors say I will die soon if this isn't fixed, and my family can't pay the bills. "The Make A Wish Foundation" has agreed to donate 7 cents for every time this message is sent on. For those of you who send this along, I thank you so much. But for those who don't send it, I will still pray for you. Please, if you are a kind person, have a heart. Please, please, PLEASE HIT THE FORWARD BUTTON


References:
Make-A-Wish Foundation - Chain Letters
Internet hoaxes hurt real efforts

Last updated: 23rd August 2007
First published: 2004

Write-up by Brett M.Christensen

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