Chain letter scam a sick joke
By MARY MANN HUNDREDS of local businesses have been tricked by a hoax chain letter circulating the North Coast.
]Business owners such as Colleen Trease, from Ballina Brake, Exhaust and Clutch , are furious, saying the scam has cost them time, money and effort ? and takes advantage of the good nature of Aussies.
The letter states a seven-year-old boy called John Craig has terminal cancer and that he is trying to qualify for the Guinness Book of World Records for receiving the greatest number of 'With Compliments' slips, with one slip requested per company. The recipient is then asked to forward a copy of the letter on the company letterhead to 10 organisations of their choice.
A Department of Consumer Protection spokesperson confirmed the letters were a hoax and said they had been circulating the country for years.
Ms Trease received the letter earlier this week. "I thought I had better see if the little guy was still alive and if he was still collecting the slips," Ms Trease said.
"But when I called the business listed as the collection point, the lady said, 'Look, please, it's a hoax. We didn't perpetrate it. Don't send the slips'." Ms Trease said it was cruel of the perpetrators to 'have a lend' of good-natured Australians.
"What a waste of time," she said.
In the one package sent to Ms Trease, it showed the letter had been sent to 120 North Coast businesses, including the Ballina Jockey Club, Hurford Building Supplies in Lismore, On-Track Bobcat at Lennox Head and Century 21 at Tweed Heads, with each business asked to send it on to another 10.
Chi Chung, the director at LJ Hooker Delahey, in Victoria, the business listed as the destination point for the 'With Compliments' slips, said about 10,000 of the chain letter packages had been sent to the office over the past five months.
"When it first started, the postman had to bring it in to me in a bag because there were too many to fit in the mail box," Mr Chung said.
Louise Sylvan, deputy chair of the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC), said there were scams created to trap just about everyone.
"On identity theft alone, losses to the Australian community are estimated to be in excess of $1 billion annually," she said.
"Consumers should be aware that all sorts of people fall for these kinds of slick swindles and that they need to be alert in order to protect themselves."
According to the sleuth website Snopes.com, which is 'dedicated to determining the truth about urban myths', the hoax originated in late 1989 when a man called Craig Shergold was diagnosed with cancer and the UK media and the American Make-a-Wish charity publicised his desire to be included in the Guinness Book of Records. Craig received treatment for his cancer and made a full recovery, as well as appearing the Guinness Book of Records. However, the cards and compliment slips are now being sent to different addresses.