By Amy E. Feldman
PHILADELPHIA (CBS) - Chain letters are irritating, frustrating, and may be…illegal.
In a chain letter I just received for the twentieth time, the author is a lawyer who says she was asked if a particular chain letter was legal; she said it wasn’t but found a way to rewrite it to make it legal and sent it out. So far, she claims she’s made $800,000 and has retired from practicing law.
Well that lawyer wasn’t me – I didn’t make $800,000 (although she probably didn’t either), I didn’t retire, and I wouldn’t tell you that such a chain letter was legal.
Most chain letters include the name and addresses of several people whom you may or may not know. You’re told to send some small amount of money to the person at the top of the list, then eliminate that name, add yours to the bottom, and send it to others who will do the same. You may not know that if a letter requests money or other items of value and promises a return to the participants it is illegal.
Letters that ask for items of minor value, like postcards or recipes are not considered items of value and not illegal but they are annoying. The bottom line is that chain letters are bad investments and bad ideas – it doesn’t take a lawyer (even a retired one) to tell you that signing your name and address to something that is illegal is just not a good idea.