(4/25/2002) It's easy to get so caught up in the ease, speed and reach of e-mail that we confuse it with traditional media, such as television. It's not until we see a hoax like this one that we are reminded how unlike the traditional media e-mail really is.
SAMPLE CHAIN LETTER TEXT
CDC Administration ALERT from the Center for Disease Control
Warining this document contains 256 bit encryption if this is not supported by your browser, a text based message will be displayed.
This is an Official alert to ALL U.S. citizens. a new strain of the anthrax bacteria has been found in four major cities so far. this strain is transmittable by air, and is resistant to sunlight, and most forms of antibiotics. it is 100% fatal, and there is no vaccine, and no cure. We are currently testing to find any means with which to combat this threat, and we have set up quarantines around the nation.
Center for Disease Control
END CHAIN LETTER TEXT
Despite its official-sounding tone, this chain has several red flags that it is a hoax:
One would assume that an employee of the CDC would know that the acronym stands for Centers for disease control, not "Center."
Early versions appear to be coming from CDC Administration at firstname.lastname@example.org. However, as an entity of the federal government, the proper top-level domain for the Centers for Disease Control would be cdc.gov (cdc.com leads you to a systems integration consultant).
Would an "Official alert" from the National Institutes of Health Centers for Disease Control really contain so many typos, misspellings and grammatical errors? I think the minimum qualifications for a job in Federal Government include knowing to start each sentence with a capital letter.
No government agency, organization or corporation uses e-mail as a substitute for traditional media (TV, radio, newspaper) for getting an important message out. E-mail is neither reliable nor valid. A randomly forwarded e-mail message poses a much greater security risk than a television news break.
Advisories from a government agency would probably contain far more specific instructions than "have them examined immediately."
Finally, on their website the CDC officially declares this letter and others like it as hoaxes:
"There are several emails being circulated with the false subject line: 'Important information about anthrax from CDC.' CDC has not conducted a mass email campaign to consumers, therefore, these emails do not originate from CDC."