Jessica Mydek hoax letter

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The Jessica Mydek hoax was a popular chain letter, circulated by hoaxsters, to play on the sympathy of credulous readers, and get them to respond, so as to build a sucker list.[1] The letter was first observed, in the wild, in 1997.[2]

According to Theresa Heyn, author of Email Hoaxes: Form, Function, Genre Ecology, the Mydek hoax letter had the three classic elements scholars recognize in a sympathy hoax letter: the "hook", the "threat", and the "request".[1]

This hoax was also used as an example of a typical cancer victim hoax in several computer security textbooks.[3][4][5]

Samantha Miller, author of E-Mail Etiquette: Do's, Don'ts and Disaster Tales from People Magazine's Internet , called Jessica Mydek hoax letters "a classic of the genre".[6]

The letter represented itself as a letter from a 7-year-old girl with terminal brain cancer. She requested the email be forwarded to the receipients' email contacts, with a carbon copy to an email address the letter represented as that of the American Cancer Society. The American Cancer Society denied involvement in the campaign and determined there was no such child.[7][8]

The letter promised readers that the American Cancer Society had corporate donors who would donate three cents for every carbon copy of the campaign letter forwarded to a new person.[9]

See also


  1. 1.0 1.1 Theresa Heyd (2008). Email Hoaxes: Form, Function, Genre Ecology. John Benjamins Publishing. pp. 34, 40, 62, 84, 86, 87, 88, 89, 93, 95, 96, 179,. ISBN 9789027254184. Retrieved 2013-06-10. 
  2. Ivar Peterson (1997-07-14). "Chain E-Mail: Heart-Rending Pleas Are Sometimes Counterfeit". New York Times. Archived from the original on 2012-04-11. Retrieved 2010-08-27. "It seemed like such a heartfelt appeal: Jessica Mydek, only 7 years old and dying of cancer, sending out an electronic-mail message urging readers to live their lives more fully and, by the way, to pass her letter on to as many other E-mail recipients as possible, so that the American Cancer Society and several corporate sponsors would each contribute 3 cents toward cancer research for every message forwarded." 
  3. Richard E. Smith (2011). "Elementary Information Security". Jones & Bartlett Publishers. p. 153. ISBN 9781449681913. Retrieved 2013-06-12. "A common type of chain email claims to promote some charitable activity by generating lots of email traffic. These are almost always bogus; no well-known charity has ever intentionally promoted such an activity. In particular, numerous chain emails have claimed that each email sent will yield a donation for cancer research, or specifically, to the American Cancer Society." 
  4. Laura J. Gurak (2001). "Cyberliteracy: Navigating the Internet with Awareness". Yale University Press. p. 82. ISBN 9780300130720. Retrieved 2013-06-12. "Hoaxes asking you to send a card to a dying child or to save box tops from cereal so that a family won't starve are popular." 
  5. Anne P. Mintz (2002). "Web of Deception: Misinformation on the Internet". Information Today. p. 98. ISBN 9780910965606. Retrieved 2013-06-12. "They report that "one frequent message says the American Red Cross will donate three cents to cancer research as part of 7-year-old cancer patient Jessica Mydek's dying wish. Another says the Make-A-Wish Foundation will pay seven cents towards the hospital bills of 7-year-old Amy Bruce, who it says is suffering from lung cancer caused by secondhand smoke and a large brain tumor caused by repeated beatings. Another making the rounds says BCC Software will donate five cents to help with 7-year-old Kalin Relek's operations for internal bleeding after he was struck by a car. But it seems none of these 7-year-olds exists."" 
  6. Samantha Miller (2001). "E-Mail Etiquette: Do's, Don'ts and Disaster Tales from People Magazine's Internet". Hachette Digital. ISBN 9780759526396. Retrieved 2013-06-12. "The tearjerkers of the e-mail hoax world. A small child is desperately ill--sometimes the e-mail purportedly comes from the kid himself--and wants to be immortalized in a chain letter. (Some legacy) Or, often, the e-mail claims that forwarding it will caus a donation to be made towards the kid's treatment or research." 
  7. "Caught up in chain mail". The Guardian. 2001-02-01. Archived from the original on 2012-04-11. Retrieved 2010-08-27. 
  8. "Jessica Mydek or Jean Ann Linney Cancer Email Hoax". Consumer fraud reporting. Archived from the original on 2012-04-11. Retrieved 2010-08-27. 
  9. [ "Fraudulent Chain Letter This statement may be copied or reprinted by online users."]. American Cancer Society. Archived from the original on 2013-06-12. Retrieved 2013-06-12. "The American Cancer Society is greatly disturbed by reports of a fraudulent chain letter circulating on the internet which lists the American Cancer Society as a "corporate sponsor" but which has in no way been endorsed by the American Cancer Society."