Marks & Spencer email hoax resurgence

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An email chain letter claiming that legendary British retailer Marks & Spencer are offering up to £500 in free vouchers has seen a resurgence in the last couple of weeks. We first encountered it in the summer of 2007, but it appears it has recently had something of a revival, with many people visiting our website searching for information.

To get an idea of how the hoax has grown in recent days, check out the graphic below. It shows the growth in 'hits' on our webpage describing the Marks & Spencer chain letter:

Marks and Spencer hoax email resurgence

You can see how hits drop at weekends - presumably as people are away from their work email accounts. It will be interesting to monitor whether this hoax grows in popularity as this week begins, or whether word spreads that it is nonsense.

The problem with hoaxes and chain letters, of course, is that they're next to impossible to kill off forever. There will always be someone who thinks it's much easier to forward a message onto their friends than Google to see if they are nonsense or not.

The text of a typical hoax email reads as follows:

Dear all,

Marks & Spencers, in conjunction with Persimmon Homes, are giving away free vouchers. Marks & Spencers are trying word-of-mouth advertising to introduce its products and the reward you receive for advertising for them is free non-refundable vouchers to be used in any M&S store.

To receive your free vouchers by e-mail all you have to do is to send this email out to 8 people (for £100 of free vouchers) or 20 people (for £500 of free vouchers). Within 2 weeks you will receive an e-mail with your vouchers attached.

They will contact you through your e-mail address.

Please mark a copy to:
<removed>@persimmonhomes.com

Obviously, forwarding this chain letter to your friends and family will only continue the nuisance - and Persimmon Homes will appreciate not being cc'd on your email.

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About the author

Graham Cluley runs his own award-winning computer security blog, and is a veteran of the anti-virus industry having worked for a number of security companies since the early 1990s. Now an independent security analyst, he regularly makes media appearances and gives computer security presentations. Send Graham an email, subscribe to his updates on Facebook, follow him on Twitter and App.net, and circle him on Google Plus for regular updates.