Recently I received emails from two associates regarding a “get rich quick” scheme. It’s made the rounds before and quite frankly I was surprised to see it poke its ugly head up again. While these hoaxes are mildly irritating, it only takes a moment of thought to determine that they absolutely must be false. Why don’t people think?
The premise of this particular scheme is that Bill Gates has teamed up with AOL to create a new email tracking system. It must be true, the message says, because the author heard it on Good Morning America. In essence, you forward the message to a bunch of people. For every person you forward the message, you receive $24,000. For every person that this group forwards to, you net $23,000, and so on. The author of the message states in closing that there are only two weeks left in the trial period and that he has just received a check in excess of $800,000. In other words, get in on the action now while you still have time.
OK, let’s assume you don’t know anything about urban legends, never heard of Google, Snopes and the like, and are in general, a credulous person. Hopefully, you know a little math. A very simple calculation shows that the scheme is impossible. I don’t know how many people watch Good Morning America, but I’d guess maybe a million or more. Let’s assume only 10,000 actually respond to this. Further, let’s assume that each responder forwards to only 10 other people (in the emails I received, I was one of at least 20 recipients). The second tier will contain 100,000 recipients, and if they do likewise, the third tier will have a million. Even if the fourth tier only forwards the message to one or two persons each, the payout will be an order of magnitude greater than the entirety of Mr. Gates’ fortune.