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More Email Tracking: The Gap Giveaway

Dateline: 06/09/99

One of the many alert readers who forwarded me a copy of this week's hot bit of Netlore was Katie Doyle, who added the comment:

Here's the latest hoax I've seen around that's not listed on your Website. It's a play off of the AOL/Netscape merger, I believe. However, when I received the hoax, there were over 100 names and email addresses. Thus, there's a lot of people who actually believe in it.

Does anyone else detect a wistful "Say it ain't so" between the lines of that message?  (Sigh.)

Unfortunately, it is so – plenty of people believe the preposterous chain letter you're about to read is true. I've received upwards of two dozen copies of it during the past week.

Subject: FREE CLOTHES!!!
Date: Sun, 23 May 1999 18:37:19 PDT

Abercrombie & Fitch have recently merged to form the largest hottie outfitter company in the world! In an effort to remain at pace with this giant, the GAP has introduced a new email tracking system to determine who has the most loyal followers. This email is a beta test of the new clothing line and GAP has generously offered to compensate those who participate in the testing process. For each person you send this e-mail to, you will be given a pair of cargo pants. For every person they give it to, you will be given an additional Hawaiian print T-shirt, for every person they send it to, you will recieve a fishermans hat! GAP will tally all the emails produced under your name over a two week period and then email you with more instructions. This beta test is only for Microsoft Windows users because the email tracking device that contacts GAP is embedded into the code of Windows 95 and 98. If you wish to speed up the "clothes receiving process" then you can email the GAP's P.R. rep for a free list of email addresses to try, at...."gollygap@yahoo.com"

(this was forwarded to me, it's not me saying this...)

I know you guys hate forwards, but I started this a month ago because I was naked and couldn't get a date. A week ago, I got an email from the GAP asking me for my address I gave it to them yesterday and I got a box load of mechandise in the mail from the GAP!!!!!

It really works! I wanted you to get a piece of the action, you won't regret it!

The obligatory debunking:

In case anyone has any doubts, this is a hoax. I feel silly even having to point them out, but... here are a few reasons to disbelieve:

  1. The firm of Abercrombie & Fitch has existed for over a hundred years. It was owned for a time by The Limited (from which it was fully divested last year), but there have been no recent mergers.
  2. There is no such thing as email tracking. Nobody can monitor how many times you forward this or any other chain letter. Nobody would want to.
  3. Would someone please show me where The Gap has announced a "beta test" of any new clothing lines?
  4. The Gap has its own Internet domain (http://www.gap.com). Why would it conduct business through a Yahoo! email address? (All email sent to gollygap@yahoo.com is returned "undeliverable" with explanation: "This account has been disabled or discontinued.")
  5. For anyone who hasn't gotten it by the time they reach the next-to-last paragraph, the message reveals itself as a joke with the statement: "I started this a month ago because I was naked and couldn't get a date." Yuk, yuk, yuk.
  6. It's plainly a parody of a similar email hoax that appeared last month (and is still circulating).

Some sound advice...

What should you do if you receive this message? There are different schools of thought, but perhaps the most sane and practical advice is that given on the U.S. Dept. of Energy's CIAC Chain Letters home page:

If you receive a chain letter in your e-mail, either delete it or send it on to one person. That one person is your local security officer or system administrator, thereby allowing them to investigate and warn their users not to pass on the letter. Do not send it to your friends and relatives because you will be clogging up the network. In addition, you lend your and your company's reputation to the message, making it appear to be authentic even when that is not the case. Hit the delete button instead and put that message where it belongs.

I can't possibly improve on that thought.

'Email Tracker' Hit Parade

As I mentioned, the current chain letter is a parody of one that surfaced just last month. But that one, in turn, was a take-off on earlier hoaxes dating back to November 1997. For those unfamiliar with this ever-popular theme in Net folklore, here's a guided tour of "email tracking" history:


 
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