Summary: Email that includes a photograph of a wooden foot bridge on a forest walking track claims that a person will appear on the bridge if the email is forwarded to at least five other people (Full commentary below).
Example:(Submitted, April 2008)
Subject: THIS IS SO COOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO COOL!
If I could sit on the porch with God, the first thing I would do is thank him for you....
Read the bottom and see how it works.
Try this! ...it really works. If you take this e-mail and forward it to at least 5 people, including the person that sent it to you, a person will appear standing on this bridge.
Let me know if you know the person? OKAY !
This prank message includes a photograph showing a wooden footbridge that apparently forms part of a forest walking track. Like many other chain emails, this one promises that something special will happen if the recipient forwards the message to others. In this case, the message claims that a person will miraculously appear on the bridge if the message is sent to at least five other people including the person who sent it.
However, this claim is nothing more than a trick designed to fool people into forwarding on the message. Even if you forward the message to five, or fifty, or even five hundred recipients, barring supernatural or divine intervention, no person will appear on the bridge. An examination of the source code of the email reveals that the image is a standard .jpg file. There is absolutely nothing whatsoever in the email that will cause the image to change in any way.
Other chain letters that use the same trick claim that a video will play or an image will pop up after the message is forwarded. Some versions simply make the vague claim that "something" will happen after the email is sent on. However, after examining hundreds of such emails over the last few years, I have yet to discover even one that "works" as claimed.
Theoretically, it could be possible to include a script or .exe file attachment with the message that, once launched, substituted one image for another or activated a popup window. However I have never seen even the remnants of such a mechanism in any of these chain letters nor located any evidence that one was ever included.
The pranksters who create such hoaxes are actually rather clever. Once launched, such messages have a means of self-replication built right into the message text that will virtually ensure that they circulate far and wide. This continued and widespread circulation is presumably the primary goal of the prankster. When a suitably gullible recipient finally realizes that the claims in the message are bogus, it will probably be too late. By then he or she will have already sent the email to several other people and waited in vain for "something" to happen. And, in many cases, at least some of his or her recipients will continue the process. Thus, these utterly pointless messages will continue to jump from inbox to inbox for months or years at a time.
While hoaxes of this type are certainly less potentially harmful than some other bogus information that circulates via email, they nevertheless needlessly clutter our already junk riddled inboxes and can also make the sender seem foolish in the eyes of his or her more computer savvy recipients.