Chain Letters

February 20, 2013

     The Bureau has received a number of complaints about chain letters which claim to be a legal way to supplement income. The most widely used letter is one which "sells" information reports on how to make money. These reports contain little or no useful information and are a subterfuge for the real reason behind the letter: recruitment of others into the plan.

The plan works as follows:

     After the recipient of the letter has sent $5 for the information reports from each of the four persons named in the chain letter, he or she is then invited to drop the first name on the list, add his or her own name and send the letter to as many people as he or she wants. The people who receive the letters sent by the original recipient may then order a report from that person in return for $5. Such schemes may contravene the pyramid selling provision of the Competition Act and may also be in violation of section 206 of the Criminal Code of Canada.Recently, high-tech chain letters have begun surfacing. They may be disseminated over the Internet, or may require the copying and mailing of computer disks rather than paper. Regardless of what technology is used to advance the scheme, it is illegal.Recipients of such letters promoting "get rich quick" schemes should ignore them. In reality, chain letter schemes are self-collapsing and will never achieve the level of earnings promised. Since chain letters must rely on unwitting members of the public for propagation, when this kind of opportunity knocks, the best response is not to answer.