Corporate networks and email boxes are being clogged up by another 'dying child' chain letter finding its way into people's mail boxes.
The latest wheeze, about a girl called 'Rachel', comes complete with a picture of a baby with a bow and ropes, and claims that AOL supports its campaign to raise money for an operation.
A spokeswoman for AOL, which has no connection with the letter or its claims, said recipients should be wary of such emails: "This is a classic example of a chainmail and is clearly a hoax."
The chain email, which is the latest in a long line of similar hoaxes, cannot be blocked by anti-spam measures and filters rarely pick them out. Security experts have warned that they could also hide viruses.
Gert Veendal, European sales director at spam-busting firm Brightmail, said: "Some of these letters may be sent in good faith and, because people get them then send them out individually to their friends, they appear as legitimate emails.
"[But] the attachments some contain are also a mechanism for hiding viruses or damaging programs."
They also anger legitimate charity fundraisers. The Institute of Fundraising has published a code of practice regarding chain letters.
It believes that the promotion of such email should be discouraged in order to protect the legal responsibilities of trustees, fundraising staff and volunteer fundraisers.
"The Institute is particularly concerned that chain letters will frequently compromise good fundraising practice," it said.
"Chain letters frequently get drawn to the attention of the press, which may result in bad publicity for the charity and for any fundraiser involved with it."
The Rachel email, which claims the dying girl is 10 months old, says that AOL will track the email. Neither AOL nor any other ISP has the technology to do this.
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