chain letter (thing)
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|A piece of mail that enjoins its recipient to make a
certain number of copies that will each be sent to a
new addressee within a specified period. The
number of copies is often between five and ten; the period
of days is usually less than a week.|
Chain letters may offer rewards for perpetuating the chain and sometimes offer threats if the chain is broken. The letters may offer luck, money, or other rewards. Chain letters are also used to circulate petitions, information, or requests for charity.
An example of a money-based chain letter: it arrives with a list of six names and addresses. You are instructed to make five copies of the letter and send a copy to five people of your acquaintance who are likely to continue the chain. When you make your copies, you remove the first name from the list and add your own name at the bottom. You also send one dollar to the first person on the list, the name that you removed. If all goes well, you will receive $15,625 in the mail, and it only cost you a dollar!
Chain letters that involve money, however, are illegal and unlikely to work.