Five Tips for Knowing that the “Forward this to your friends and get a free (fill in the blank)” E-mail is a Fake

If your email message offering a free laptop or any other product seems too good to be true, it probably is. Find out how you can tell the fakes from the real thing in emails and giveaways.

If you’ve had an e-mail account for more than 5 days and have e-mailed more than five friends, you’ve probably received an e-mail promising you that there is a free promotion for a free cell phone, free computer or free gift card such as a free Apple’s gift certificate or a free Gap gift card. Oh, if only you’ll forward this e-mail to seven or nine or some random number of e-mail buddies.
As is usually the case, if it sounds too good to be true it is probably a fake. How can you know for sure that e-mail is a fake? Does is really hurt anything to pass this e-mail on just in case it is legit?
Here’s an example: A Free Laptop computer from Ericsson to those who send this message to 8 or more people
“Example:(Submitted March 2007 and received by one reader just the other day)
Subject: Free Laptop
Hi, everyone
The Ericsson Company is distributing free computer laptops in an attempt to match Nokia that has already done so. Ericsson hopes to increase its popularity this way. For this reason, they are giving away the new WAP Laptops. All you need to qualify is to send this mail to 8 people you know. Within 2 weeks, you will receive Ericcson T18. But if you can send it to 20 people or more, you will receive Ericsson R320.
Make sure to send a copy to:”
It’s fake. We repeat. It is a fake. It’s been around a long time and changed a bit, but it isn’t and it never has been true. So it the one that promises a Gap gift card or an Applebee’s gift certificate.
Here are five tips for determining if an offer is legit:
1. Think about the viral nature of that kind of email and use common sense.
What do we mean by viral nature?
Well, with within 24 hours, one email sent to just two people, those two send it to 2 more and so on, an e-mail can reach 150 Million plus in boxes. If even 1% of people claimed their computer, Sony would be giving out 1.5 MILLION computers, and would be filing for bankruptcy the next day. They do give out free computers, but a computer, even barebones, has some real cost. Let’s say it’s a crappy laptop for $90, and they send it to you for $10. Those are conservative numbers. That means that tomorrow, Sony has spent 150 MILLION dollars to give out their main product, computers, for free, so that they can compete with Nokia? Not likely.
2. Respectable companies wouldn’t notify you by an e-mail address.
The second way you know it’s a fake for sure is that it tells you to notify someone at their personal email address. If Sony was honestly trying to give away computers, don’t you think they would be able to set up
3. The tracking mechanisms are unrealistic.
How is it really possible for a company to track the millions of e-mails that bounce from Comcast, Hotmail, Gmail and other e-mail providers?
4. You have to check the source, personally.
Most people are aware of the ability to check out scams at websites such as but many fake e-mails try to override this by having someone or even more than one person claim that they have checked it out personally and that it is legit. It’s not.
There are many sources for checking out suspicious e-mails including:
5. Check the company website.
If a company is actually doing a free giveaway promotion, they’ll tell you on their very own website. Many companies that have been named in fake e-mails such as Ericsson and Applebee’s have statements on their websites warning customers about the fake e-mails.
I must admit that over a decade ago when I first became an e-mail user, I got the fake e-mail from a relative about a free Applebee’s gift certificate. She said she didn’t know if it was true but as the mother of three, she’s was willing to give it a try for a free dinner. Of course with all of these fake e-mails, you won’t know that you’ll never get your prize until to actually do send it to seven other people and never heard a word. In the mean time, you’ve wasted your time, wasted other people’s time, possibly gotten or passed on a computer and for a fake e-mail that was too good to be true. Use these five tips to avoid being scammed by fake free offer e-mails.