Normally I would have chucked the envelope right into the hopper.
In fact, I did.
For the first two that arrived.
When the third one landed in the mailbox, I changed my mind.
Too many people are hurting, and the promise of easy money is sooooo sexy.
"Before you throw this away, put it ona pile and forget about it, throw it in the fireplace or garbage can, please give yourself this chance to do something that really works and can change your life forever," begins the letter printed on nice, white copy paper. "You have nothing to lose and financial freedom to gain forever."
That's the cover letter, purportedly written by one George Vazquez, General Contractor.
The next few pages, written by a nameless attorney, explain how the money-making process works.
"Make $250,000 in Weeks! Oprah Winfrey and ABC's investigative team 20/20 proved it can be done" trumpets the opening of the instructions.
The package then closes with a full page of testimonials from five people.
And The List Of Six.
Send a dollar to each of the six people whose names and addresses are on this last page.
Then chop the top person's name off the list, and rewrite the list with the remaining five and your own name/address on the bottom, in position six.
It's a chain letter.
Chain letters are illegal.
The trick, according to the text of the explaining pages, is that you are supposed to include a slip of paper with your dollar sent to those six people.
Write, "Please add me to your mailing list." on the slip.
These words supposedly remove the illegality, as now you are getting something in return for your dollar, adding yourself to the mailing lists of those six people.
Now, after you've mailed off your six bucks and rewritten The List Of Six to include your own name, you're supposed to print up 200 copies of the entire opus and mail them out to 200 people.
Assuming a 7% return rate, the letter says, you'll make $400,000 in six months.
How seductive that is.
The fact that I've received three of these things in the last couple weeks--from with different List Of Six members on each one--proves it.
Each one of those people spent over $80 in postage, $12 in envelopes, $45 for mailing labels, and enough copy center charges to pay for 1,200 copies.
Out of all the names that were listed so they could receive a payment from me, there was just one that was the same, throughout all three letters.
The outfit that will sell me my list of 200 names.
Data Line gets photocopied into every tier of the mailings done by the List Of Six.
$45 x 200.
That's $9,000 in potential earnings for Data Line, each time someone sends out a mailing.
With a 15% response rate, that's $36,612,675.00.
Thirty six and a half million dollars.
For selling lists of labels.
Even if half the mailings fail miserably, there's still a ton of potential money riding around in the chain letters.
But not for the people doing the work and risking their bread money for it.
Author's note: There's a similar scam that's been floating around the Internet for a while now, dropping the mailing label house and using PayPal instead of the post office to shift money around.
Paypal will shut you down if they detect involvement in anything like this at all. See section three of their acceptable use policy,