A recent chain letter was sent to me outlining the, more often than not, false assumption that email can simply be "tracked". Here's the email, you can click it to view the entire content of it.</p>

<img class="size-medium wp-image-733 aligncenter" title="junk-email" src="http://caphrim.net/tim/wp-content/uploads/2010/03/junk-email-176x300.png" alt="" width="176" height="300" /></a></p>

Allow me to break it down, explain what is possible, explain how a competent computer technician would evaluate this email, and debunk some myths that the email uses.</p>

First, what this email claims is just plain false.</p>

Spam emails do not always have an email tracker program attached. For instance, the following picture shows an email with an attachment, lots of spam I receive does not have an attachment.

<img class="aligncenter size-medium wp-image-754" title="attachment" src="http://caphrim.net/tim/wp-content/uploads/2010/03/Screenshot-11-300x95.png" alt="" width="300" height="95" /></a>

Even if they did, you, the living, breathing, human would need to open the attachment and run the program.

Due to the number of infected PC's I deal with, this is not uncommon. People are far too trusting of the email they receive

It is extraordinarily unlikely that the sender is receiving a copy of whatever you forward to people.

First of all, spam is almost always sent from a fake, or spoofed email account. If in the terribly unlikely chance that some software was forwarding your email to the bad guy, it would not be using the From address; it would more likely be using an address hard-coded in any malware attached to the email. It is much more likely that miscreants will harvest your email if you reply to the email. Please, under no circumstances, should you ever reply to spam. Just don't do it. Please.

It doesn't matter what the subject matter of the email is.

True, miscreants play off your emotions, but it's not email tracking; give me a break. It's just them trying to suck you in because the number show that people actually respond to this stuff.

The email above makes all these claims about "cookie" tracking.

This is non-sense. Cookies only exist in your web browser. They do not exist in your email client. Secondly, do not immediately assume that all cookies are bad. For more info, read my cookie</a> article


When I receive emails like this from family and friends, I first attempt to determine whether or not it is spam.</p>

Spam is really hard to define these days. It's subjective, and doesn't always have clearly defined characteristics. For most people though, you'll eventually just "know it when you see it" and generally be able to explain why it's spam.</p>

Why does this look like spam to me? Here are my reasons.</p>

Reason 1</h2>
It's from my mother or father (haha, just kidding)

Reason 2</h2>
It claims to provide expertise on a technology (email tracker programs).

This technology doesn't exist. It'd be similar to receiving an email claiming to provide expertise on space shuttles made out of creamcheese; it's bogus.

Reason 3</h2>
In the email the sender claims that "some man" sent this to them and he is a computer tech.They then try to validate his expertise by claiming that he spends a lot of time fixing peoples computers and listens to all these complaints.

Listen folks, this type of validation is so common in email that it's nauseating to read. Your brain reads that sentence and says "oh well then this email must be valid". Please, have some skepticism. On the internet, anyone can act like an expert. Just because they say they are an expert does not mean that they are.

Reason 4</h2>
Inclusion of references to more-or-less trusted sites (like snopes).

Snopes is a legit site, and most of the time their info is spot-on, but just because they are mentioned in the email doesn't mean that the content of the email is legit. Even if the email provided a link back to snopes, I wouldn't just trust it. Anyone can copy the snopes design and stand up a fake webpage. If you don't believe me, compare this link</a> and the real link</a>

Reason 5</h2>
Far too much usage of THE CAPS LOCK KEY.

This is one of those things that sets me off when I see it. For those who are not familiar with Internet lingo, it implies that you are yelling. Re-read the email again and for the sentences that include words in all caps, read it out loud to yourself. Sound ridiculous? Yes.

In summary</h2>
While this email is spam and is spreading misleading and inaccurate information, at least it's heart is in the right place.

Spam, including chain letters, should not be forwarded on to friends and family. Friends don't let friends forward spam. Period. Do yourself, your family, and your personal computer guy or gal a big favor and just delete this junk.