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A couple of friends sent me that weird email saying that, starting this summer, if I don't send that same email to at least 18 people in my contact list, I will have to pay to use messenger and my Hotmail account.

Is that true?


It's just another email hoax that's making the rounds.

It's wrong on so many levels. Let's look at why, and what you can do to tell beforehand.

The first clue is "if I don't send that same email to at least 18 people". That type of wording, or the more popular "send this to everyone you know" is an almost sure sign of an email hoax or urban legend.

The second clue? "A couple of friends sent me..." - trust me, if Microsoft were going to start charging for HotMail or Messenger, they wouldn't get the word out be asking friends to tell friends. You would have heard it directly from HotMail. For something that would be this serious, you also would have heard about it in the mainstream media.

Another clue is simply that there's no way to reliably track email. There's no way that HotMail - or anyone for that matter - could tell if you forwarded that mail to anyone, much less 18 of your friends. (Technically I suppose HotMail, and only HotMail, could tell if you forwarded the message to 18 people on HotMail, but only on HotMail. But they're not. Honest.)

"Forwarding hoaxes and urban legends just makes you part of the problem."

One thing you should not do? Do not forward that email. Delete it, ignore it, and get on with your life.

Forwarding hoaxes and urban legends just makes you part of the problem. Don't fall victim to the "it couldn't hurt to forward" mentality. It can, and does, by spreading lies and misinformation and puts garbage into the inboxes of your friends.

One thing you can do, is check it out on any of a number of urban legend reference sites. My favorite is Snopes, and sure enough there's an article that clearly debunks this particular hoax.

I'm torn about responding to the people that sent you this hoax. On one hand, we'd like to educate them so that they stop forwarding this garbage, but on the other hand, telling people that they just made a mistake or that they're wrong can often just make them angry.

You'll have to judge for yourself.

Article C2673 - May 31, 2006 « »

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Leo Leo A. Notenboom has been playing with computers since he was required to take a programming class in 1976. An 18 year career as a programmer at Microsoft soon followed. After "retiring" in 2001, Leo started Ask Leo! in 2003 as a place for answers to common computer and technical questions. More about Leo.

Not what you needed?

June 1, 2006 3:44 AM

If you get anything like that, use reply to all explaining that it is a hoax, try and get it out quickly before anyone sends it on.

Greg Bulmash
June 1, 2006 3:14 PM

I never suggest "reply to all" and explaining that it's a hoax. You may have enough of an issue with hurt feelings if you explain to the sender privately that it's a hoax. Think about how that magnifies if you're publicly shaming them by correcting them in front of all the other recipients.

You may help stop a few copies of a chain letter, but you could end up with a friend, business associate, or client who is now very annoyed with you.

If you HAVE to say something, say it privately, and try to couch it in terms that portray them as the victim of a mean joke, so that if they get mad, it's not at you.

Do not reply to all. You're just courting disaster that way.

June 3, 2006 5:35 AM

If you don't forward this page to at least 18 people in the next 15 mins we will have to put up with this cr*p for another 5 years...please do it NOW!

June 7, 2006 6:29 AM

Id like to also point out that in this chain letter it states that hotmail will be charging from Summer 2006. In my experience with Microsoft, they usually are more precise as in months rather than seasons due to the fact it is an international brand, and Hotmail is an international service

August 23, 2006 10:50 PM

On the other hand, Greg, I used to get a lot of these from people who I had casual acquaintance with, and they magically stopped filling my Inbox when I started replying with the link to Snopes...

suad yusuf ismail
November 27, 2006 6:24 PM

i have a broplem with my inbox

June 9, 2007 8:05 PM

Wow,that was really helpful:I was trying to find an answer to weither that e-mail was true or not.Thankyou so much for posting this =) It really helped!

August 18, 2007 12:07 PM

thanks I wasnt sure if I really had to pay for hotmail. This aritcle is really helpful

Ibrahim hamzeh
January 18, 2008 12:51 AM

4 years ago I heared of a program that microsoft is working on to enhance the

security against viruses, spams and junk email that all are familiar with, they said that they

will pay anyone who forward a certain message to their contacts on the address book to test

the new program and many people participated ( ofcourse the did not get paid)

the link to this is here

a year later Microsoft announced that they will start charging new accounts on MSN and forced people to

convert all their accounts to hotmail instead of MSN and started charging people who link their

new hotmail accounts with POP email accounts using OUTLOOK because that is how people send you spam and

viruses and junk or advertising emails.

now let us get to real problem.

The problem is that people beleive anything as long as it is on the internet

or in their email inbox , on the contrary things mostly are false and hoax, but the thing

that bothers me the most is the speed in which people forward these messages to each other

without taking the time to invistigate, and they contribute to the problem and make it

bigger. now let us look at the real reason behind this

I think that who ever is responsible for this rumor is eaither a nut case, or a big huge company

(like MICROSOFT) that uses people to test their new programs, I have been a programmer for about 20 years

from my experience I can say that longest and most time consuming of any program cycle is the

testing phase of the program. you can ask any experienced programmer and they will tell

you the same. Windows XP came out in the market in 2001 and it took them 3 years

to fix all the bugs when tehy came out with Service pack 2, and they still do updates

to it everynow and then.

June 12, 2009 4:30 AM

I hate the "sent to x friends" emails!
You are right, if it is true, Hotmail itself would have to inform the user, not a crapy sent-to-friends email.

August 20, 2009 5:56 PM

Every time I activate MSN internet, I receive a message that MSN will start charging $10 to use hotmail. How can I stop this message?

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