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Hotmail Account Hoax

Summary:
Email claims that your Hotmail (or Yahoo) account will be terminated if you don't forward the message (Full commentary below.)



Status:
False

Examples:(Submitted via email 2003, 2004, 2005)
READ THE PARAGRAPH IF YOU WANT TO KEEP YOUR HOTMAIL ACCOUNT!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Dear Hotmail User,

Because of the sudden rush of people signing up to Hotmail, it has come to our attention that we are vastly running out of resources. So, within a month's time, anyone who does not receive this email with the exact subject heading, will be deleted off our server. Please forward this email so that we know you are still using this account.

WARNING WARNING

We want to find out which users are actually using their Hotmail accounts. So if you are using your account, please pass this e-mail to every Hotmail user that you can and if you do not pass this letter to anyone we will delete your account.



Subject: Fwd: Warning - Hotmail users

WARNING WARNING Hotmail is overloading and we need to get rid of some people and we want to find out which users are actually using their Hotmail accounts. So if you are using your account, please pass this e-mail to every Hotmail user that you can and if you do not pass this letter to anyone we will delete your account.

From Mr. Jon Henerd

Hotmail Admin. Dept.



Hello to everyone from the Hotmail Headquarters! This is just a little test to see who is actively using their email account and in effect deleting all inactive users accounts. This process will make the whole site faster and easier to use for the active users. Now on to what to do with this email. All you have to do is forward this on to at least 10 registered Hotmail users. If you don't forward this on within 48 hours of reading it, your account will be deactivated momentarily until you contact Hotmail Headquarters.


MSN as you might know is having some technical difficulties due to the amount of accounts registered. Forward this message by copy and pasting it to all the people on your contact list so that our server recognizes your account as active. All accounts who do not will be removed within 24 hours so that the network is not overloaded with inactive accounts



Commentary:
According to this message, the recipient's Hotmail account will be deactivated or deleted if he or she does not forward the email to a number of other people. However, the claims in the message are untrue and the email is not from Hotmail's management. In fact , the message is a long running hoax that has spawned dozens of variants since it first began circulating back in 1999. As well as spreading via email, the hoax also makes its way around the world via instant messaging and social networking websites

Like a lot of hoaxes, this one banks on the fact that many people will hit the "forward" button without analyzing the information very deeply. Even if Hotmail was "running out of resources", it certainly would not attempt to remedy the problem by asking customers to forward an email. Hotmail, or any other webmail system, would not employ such a vague, hit and miss method of checking on the status of account holders. It seems likely that such services have sophisticated and precise methods of checking the activity levels of accounts that do not require the account holder to reply to or forward a specific message.

Although the above example is aimed at Hotmail, variations of the hoax have also targeted Yahoo and AIM instant messaging customers.

Phishing scammers have used similar "account closure" warnings as a means of tricking recipients into disclosing their account login and other personal details.

Information about other versions of the hoax:
A version that targets Yahoo:
DO NOT DELETE!!!! This is Yahoo President Jay Russell, I am sorry to announce that Yahoo has reached its maximum number of accounts two million. If you would like to keep your account for free send this to everyone on your list. This way we can know which accounts are being used and which accounts we can delete. Send this within 8 days and your account will remain free. Once again I am sincerely sorry that I have to do this. Please start sending. Jay Russell, Yahoo Management

References:
Yahoo Account Phishing Scam Email

Last updated: 22nd September 2009
First published: 2003

Write-up by Brett M. Christensen