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About chain mail

What is chain mail?

Many people think of electronic chain mail as messages that promise good luck if you forward them to others and bad luck if you do not. This is a common, though not necessary, characteristic of chain mail. At Indiana University, a message is considered chain mail if it serves a non-academic purpose and requests that the letter be resent. Be suspicious of any message that asks you to forward it to others, and do not forward such messages.

Some chain mail involves sending money with the promise of receiving money from those to whom you forward the message, or claims to donate money for a particular cause based on how many copies of the chain mail message you forward. Other examples warn of bad events that you can thwart, or offer a touching story in which you can participate, by forwarding the message to as many people as possible. Nearly every instance of such email is a hoax. These messages often come from people you know, who are not aware that the messages are hoaxes.

At IU, if you're not sure if a message is legitimate, contact your campus Support Center for advice.

IU's policy on chain mail

IU computer accounts are authorized only for tasks directly related to the educational mission of the university, as described in this excerpt from the policy regarding appropriate use of information technology resources:

Use of Indiana University information technology resources is restricted to purposes related to the university's mission of research and creative activity, teaching and learning, and civic engagement. Eligible individuals are provided access in order to support their studies, instruction, duties as employees, official business with the university, and other university-sanctioned activities.

If you receive chain mail

If you get chain email from someone with an apparent IU email address, report it immediately to the University Information Policy Office (UIPO) by forwarding the entire message with full headers intact to  it-incident@iu.edu ; for instructions, see In email, what are full headers? Policy officers will contact the offender by email. Possible penalties include a warning, loss of account privileges, or legal liability. For more information, see What should I do when I get spam email?

If you get chain email from someone not affiliated with IU, you can reply to the sender, noting your displeasure, or you can delete and ignore the message. If you choose to complain, make sure you know how to determine the actual source. Include the offending message and all header information. Most email and Internet service providers (ISPs) have policies regarding the propagation of chain email and how to deal with it.

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Last modified on April 27, 2012.

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