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Email promises free Applebee's gift certificates for those who forward the message to a specified number of people.

Brief Analysis

This email is a hoax. The message is not from Applebee's and recipients will not be given free gift certificates for forwarding an email. Any message that claims that you can receive vouchers, cash or prizes just for forwarding an email is virtually certain to be a hoax.


Subject: Applebee's - don't delete

My name is Bill Palmer, founder of Applebee's. In an attempt to get our name out to more people in the rural communities where we are not currently located, we are offering a $50 gift certificate to anyone who forwards this email to 9 of their friends. Just send this email to them and you will receive an email back with a confirmation number to claim your gift certificate.

Bill Palmer
Founder of Applebee's Visit us at: www.applebees.com

Hey guys,
It really works, I tried it and got my Gift certificate confirmation number in 3 minutes.

Detailed Analysis

An email hoax that promises free gift certificates from popular restaurant chain, Applebee's has been continually circulating since 2002. The message claims that by sending the email to 9 of your friends, you will receive a confirmation number that allows you to claim a $50 gift certificate.

However, the claims in the message are untrue. Applebee's has published information in its website FAQ debunking the hoax and denying any involvement. The FAQ notes:
I received an email that said I should forward the message to receive free Applebee's® Gift Certificates. Is it for real?

No. A fraudulent email chain message promising Applebee's® Gift Certificates for forwarding the message is currently making its way around the Internet. The message promises a gift certificate and a confirmation number after forwarding the message to a specific number of email addresses. Applebee's® International, Inc. does not sponsor or endorse this activity and is unable to fulfill these requests.
In fact, this message is just one among a number of absurd hoax emails that claim that people can receive free vouchers, cash or prizes in exchange for forwarding an email. Any message that claims that a particular company or organization is giving away money, products or services based on how many times an email is forwarded is virtually certain to be a hoax.

No legitimate company is ever likely to run a promotional campaign based on how many times a particular email is forwarded. It is simply absurd to suggest that a company would give away expensive products or gift certificates in exchange for the haphazard and uncontrolled forwarding of an email. The reach and ease of use of email means that such a message could find its way to hundreds of thousands, or even millions of inboxes within a few days or weeks. Given that there are no conditions or limitations included in such messages, a participating company could soon find itself obligated to hand over millions of dollars worth of cash, products or gift certificates.

Of course, many companies do run promotional giveaways of various kinds. However, such promotions are sure to be very tightly controlled via time constraints, maximum expenditure limits or other qualifying factors. And information about a promotion, along with conditions or limitations, will be made available to consumers via advertising, product labels, official entry forms, the company website and other legitimate channels. Such information certainly would not rely solely on the random journey of a vague and poorly written email message.

And the implication in this hoax message is that Applebee's will be able to ascertain via some kind of email tracking program when you have sent the message to 9 other people. This is again pure nonsense. As it circulates, any particular email message is likely to be resent in different formats using different email programs via different service providers. While it is possible to embed a script into a HTML email message, for example to see if an email has been opened by a recipient, many email programs and computer security programs will block such scripts and thereby render them useless. Moreover, if a HTML message that contains such a script is switched to plain text during its journey, a quite likely scenario given that many people prefer to use plain text for added security, the script will be lost. And, of course, tracking a user's emailing activities and collecting his or her email addresses via some sort of embedded script would also raise serious privacy concerns. Therefore, there is simply no reliable or ethical method of tracking the journey of a particular email message as it moves from inbox to inbox around the world.

Again any email that promises the recipient something just for sending on a message is very likely to be nothing more than a pointless prank and should not be forwarded.

Last updated: 1st April 2010
First published: October 2005
Article written by Brett M. Christensen
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