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Bill Gates Is Sharing His Fortune!

Netlore Archive: Sorry, folks. Microsoft and AOL have not merged, they're not conducting an email beta test, nor has Bill Gates decided to share his hard-earned fortune with people who forward silly chain letters.

Description: Email hoax
Circulating since: Sep. 1999 (this version)
Status: FALSE (see details below)


Example #1:
Email contributed by Sheppard L., Sep. 27, 1999:

Subject: FW: Microsoft and AOL merger
Date: Fri, 24 Sep 1999

I'm forwarding a forwarded message...read on, it it works you may get $$ from Microsoft. Certainly Bill has enough to share-maybe today we'll be blessed financially!

I am forwarding this because the person who sent it to me is a good friend and does not send me junk. Microsoft and AOL are now the largest Internet company and in an effort make sure that Internet explorer remains the most widely used program, Microsoft and AOL are running an e-mail beta test. When you forward this e-mail to friends, Microsoft can and will track it (if you are a Microsoft Windows user) for a two week time period. For every person that you forward this e-mail to, Microsoft will pay you $5.00, for every person that you sent it to that forwards it on, Microsoft will pay you $3.00 and for every third person that receives it, you will be paid $1.00. Within two weeks, Microsoft will contact you for your address and then send you a check. I thought this was a scam myself, but two weeks after receiving this e-mail and forwarding it on, Microsoft contacted me for my e-mail and within days, I received a check for $800.00.


Example #2:
Email contributed by DebbieAnn S., Sep. 27, 1999:

Sent: Friday, September 24, 1999 1:33 PM
Subject: Microsoft and AOL merger.

I am forwarding this because the person who sent it to me is a good friend and does not send me junk. Microsoft and AOL are now the largest Internet company and in an effort make sure that Internet explorer remains the most widely used program, Microsoft and AOL are running an e-mail beta test. When you forward this e-mail to friends, Microsoft can and will track it (if you are a Microsoft Windows user) for a two week time period. For every person that you forward this e-mail to, Microsoft will pay you $245.00, for every person that you sent it to that forwards it on, Microsoft will pay you $243.00 and for every third person that receives it, you will be paid $241.00. Within two weeks, Microsoft will contact you for your address and then send you a check. I thought this was a scam myself, but two weeks after receiving this e-mail and forwarding it on, Microsoft contacted me for my e-mail and within days, I received a check for $24800.00.


Example #3:
Email contributed by Rory C., March 14, 2002:

Sent: February 11, 2002 10:24 AM
Subject: Fw: THIS IS NOT JUNK LETTER. BILL GATES IS SHARING HIS FORTUNE.

Dear Friends,

Please do not take this for a junk letter. Bill Gates is sharing his fortune. If you ignore this you will repent later. Microsoft and AOL are now the largest Internet companies and in an effort to make sure that Internet Explorer remains the most widely used program, Microsoft and AOL are running an e-mail beta test.

When you forward this e-mail to friends, Microsoft can and will track it (if you are a Microsoft Windows user) for a two week time period. For every person that you forward this e-mail to, Microsoft will pay you $245.00, for every person that you sent it to that forwards it on, Microsoft will pay you $243.00 and for every third person that receives it, you will be paid $241.00. Within two weeks, Microsoft will contact you for your address and then send you a cheque.

Regards. Chinu! I thought this was a scam myself, but two weeks after receiving this e-mail and forwarding it on, Microsoft contacted me for my address and within days, I received a cheque for US$24,800.00. You need to respond before the beta testing is over. If anyone can afford this Bill Gates is the man. It's all marketing expense to him. Please forward this to as many people as possible. You are bound to get at least US$10,000.00.


Analysis: This is a hoax, and a recycled one at that. Bill Gates isn't sharing his fortune with random folks who forward email chain letters. No merger between Microsoft and AOL has been announced — indeed, it's hard to imagine an unlikelier event. Two of Microsoft's biggest competitors, America Online and Netscape, merged in 1998, making AOL Microsoft's main rival. Trust me, if these two behemoths were to merge, you'd have seen it in the headlines a thousand times over.

Moreover, Microsoft cannot track the chain letters you forward, nor will Bill Gates pay you for replicating this insipid message. Why on earth would he?

Statement from Microsoft:

REDMOND, Wash., May 12, 1999 - Recently an email has been circulating on the Internet about a new "email tracking system" from Microsoft.

As you may have suspected, this is a hoax and did not originate from Microsoft.

Microsoft does try to investigate the source of these hoaxes and take appropriate action. However, many times the hoaxers take elaborate steps to shield their true identities and we cannot identify them. Privacy and security are very important to us here at Microsoft, and we work every day to build great software for the Internet that keeps information safe, secure and private.

We regret any inconvenience this may have caused you.

Statement from Bill Gates:

Even more annoying than spam, in some respects, are hoaxes. I'm acutely aware of this because my name was recently attached to a hoax email message that was widely distributed.

People embellished the fraudulent email over time, as it was forwarded from electronic mailbox to electronic mailbox, but an early version read this way:

"My name is Bill Gates. I have just written up an e-mail tracing program that traces everyone to whom this message is forwarded to. I am experimenting with this and I need your help. Forward this to everyone you know and if it reaches 1000 people everyone on the list will receive $1000 at my expense. Enjoy. Your friend, Bill Gates."

The bogus message was widely forwarded, which surely led to some disappointment from people who hoped to receive $1,000 for passing along what was essentially a chain letter.

— From "On Spam: Wasting Time on the Internet," published in 1998


Further reading:

Copy this Article & Win Quick Cash!
Wired magazine, July 2004

Charitable Chain Reactions
The Guardian, 25 May 2002

Further Adventures in Email Tracking
From August 1998: a survey of "email tracking" chain letters on the Net

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