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?

No.

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.)

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 , 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.

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[tags]hotmail,leo notenboom,snopes,internet hoax,messenger,email forward[/tags]