The Infamous 5-Cent Email Hoax
(for further information, go to: http://www.snopes.com/inboxer/pending/email.htm
"People should never take Internet information at face
value..." Mark Sanford, US House of Representatives, R- South Carolina.
On Friday, June 4, 1999, I received an email from SSQQ Staffer Donna Ruth warning me
that the Postal Service was sponsoring a bill to begin taxing everyone's use of email. Her
suggestion was to write my Representative and voice my opposition. Unfortunately I
received this email at an incredibly busy time - we were remodeling the studio - and I
forgot to save it.
I also received the identical warning from Ruth Ann Manison around the same time. I
wouldn't be at all surprised if some of you readers received that same warning as well. At
the time, it was everywhere !
Naturally the tax was a very alarming concept and a very believable one as well. I
wouldn't be at all surprised to see it happen some day. Having our government tax
the email and the Internet does not sound very far-fetched at all.
To start us off on this well-known Internet scam story, first read the
Hoax letter, then scroll down further to read the Houston
Chronicle article which refers to the Hoax Letter further below.
Here is the famous Hoax Letter that was passed around the Internet a
few billion times:
VOTE NO ON Bill 602P!!!!
I guess the warnings were true. Federal Bill 602P 5-cents per E-mail Sent. It figures! No more free E-mail!
We knew this was coming!! Bill 602P will permit the Federal Government to charge a 5-cent charge on every delivered E-mail.
Please read the following carefully if you intend to stay online, and continue using E-mail. The last few months have revealed an alarming trend in the Government of the United States attempting to quietly push through legislation that will affect our use of the Internet.
Under proposed legislation, the US Postal Service will be attempting to bill E-mail users out of "alternative postage fees."
Bill 602P will permit the Federal Government to charge a 5-cent surcharge on every E-mail delivered, by billing Internet Service Providers at source. The consumer would then be billed in turn by the ISP.
Washington DC lawyer Richard Stepp is working without pay to prevent this l legislation from becoming law. The US Postal Service is claiming lost revenue, due to the proliferation of E-mail, is costing nearly $230,000,000 in revenue per year. You may have noticed their recent ad campaign: "There is nothing like a letter."
Since the average person received about 10 pieces of E-mail per day in 1998, the cost of the typical individual would be an additional 50 cents a day -- or over $180 per year -- above and beyond their regular Internet costs. Note that this would be money paid directly to the US Postal Service for a service they do not even provide.
The whole point of the Internet is democracy and noninterference.
You are already paying an exorbitant price for snail mail because of bureaucratic efficiency.
It currently takes up to 6 days for a letter to be delivered from coast to coast.
If the US Postal Service is allowed to tinker with E-mail, it will mark the end of the "free" Internet in the United States.
Our congressional representative, Tony Schnell (R) has even suggested a "$20-$40 per month surcharge on all Internet service" above and beyond the governments proposed E-mail charges.
Note that most of the major newspapers have ignored the story -- the only exception being the Washingtonian - which called the idea of E-mail surcharge "a useful concept who's time has come" (March 6th, 1999 Editorial).
Do not sit by and watch your freedom erode away! Send this to E-mail to EVERYONE on your list, and tell all your friends and relatives write their congressional representative and say "NO" to Bill 602P. It will only take a few moments of your time and could very well be instrumental in killing a bill we do not want.
(Editor's Note: Next is an interesting article that appeared in the Houston Chronicle.
I read it on June 16, 1999,
just 12 days after I received the Hoax Letter on June 4th. Apparently
May/June of 1999, was the moment when the Email Hoax was hitting its
crest. As I follow up on this article a year later (September, 2000), I
still occasionally get the Hoax Email email sent to me. Apparently there
are people out there who are still getting fooled by it. Fortunately I
just send them to this web page and clear it up on the spot. Nothing like
a little truth to squelch a rumor.
I believe the article below analyzes very well why the scam was so believable to begin with and why
it is so difficult to combat rumors of this nature. Rick
E-mail Surcharge Hoax delivers grief for Postal Service
reprinted in its entirety from the Houston Chronicle
Wednesday, June 16, 1999
Section A, Page 12
by Robert A. Rosenblatt
Los Angeles Times
Washington - Computer users are outraged by reports that the Postal Service, its
bottom line suffering because e-mail is siphoning off some of it most lucrative business,
is quietly promoting legislation that would slap a 5-cent surcharge on every piece of
e-mail they receive.
Complaints are flooding into congressional offices in response to a widely
circulated e-email message from a law firm in Washington's Virginia suburbs declaring that
Bill 602P would cost the average email user $180 a year.
"If the federal government is permitted to tamper with our liberties by
adding a surcharge to email," the message warns, "who knows where it will end
There is only one problem : the news is a hoax, a scam, a lie hurtling through
Bill 602P doesn't exist. Neither does the crusading law firm, or the Republican
congressman, Tony Schnell, who is said to be pushing for an even higher email surcharge.
It is all the creation of some unknown prankster with a fertile imagination and an
understanding of cyberspace.
The phony warning is the product of something new - the Internet - combined with
something old - the human capacity to believe the worst - to give birth to a rumor that is
spreading faster than has ever been possible and that has acquired more credibility than a
mere piece of gossip overheard at a cocktail party or during a casual phone call with a
With the advent of the internet, there is "an easy way of broadcasting
these kinds of hoaxes and distortions in a matter of seconds," said Professor Frank
Friedman, chairman of the information and computer sciences department at Temple
University in Philadelphia.
"People are no more or less gullible than they have always been. But now
all these gullible people can send a message to other people. We have to be circumspect
with every piece of information we get over this beast."
The phony warning about email charges says, "Send this email to everyone on
your list and tell all your friends and relatives to write to their congressman and say
'no' to Bill 602P. It will only take a few minutes of your time and could very well be
instrumental in killing a bill we don't want."
The appeal was written by "Kate Turner", an assistant to a lawyer
named "Richard Stepp," a partner in the firm of Berger, Stepp, and Gorman.
Despite the Postal Services' best efforts to stamp it out, the rumor keeps
springing back to life.
"There's no such bill and the Postal Service would not support such a
notion," Roy Betts, the Postal Service's director of media relations, said Tuesday.
The Postal Service briefly posted a notice on its own Web site stating that the story was
a hoax, and Betts said, "We may decide to re-post it, so that we can snuff it out
That might not be so easy. The rumor is spreading faster than the facts can
shoot it down. Betts said the Postal Service has received complaints from everywhere from
Massachusetts to California.
"It seems like it is still percolating," he said.
In Congress, where all bills have numbers preceded by "S" for the
Senate and "HR" for the House of Representatives, Bill No. 602P was quickly
recognized as a phony.
Nevertheless, Rep. Mark Sanford, R-S.C., has received at least 40 complaints,
call, and messages about it. He views the phenomenon as a demonstration that people should
never take Internet information at face value.
The Post Office Email Hoax :
Email Correspondence between Donna Ruth and Rick Archer
Unfortunately, I am missing the original reply where I told
Donna I doubted the threat was real. However I think the gist of the problem is captured.
Email Time Line :
Friday, June 4, 1999, 9 am
Email #1 (VOTE NO ON Bill 602P!!!!)
from Donna Ruth to Rick Archer
Re: warning him of the Post Office email taxing threat. (Note: the
original Hoax Letter is listed at the top of this page)
Friday, June 4, 1999, 10 am
Missing Email #2 from Rick Archer to Donna Ruth
Re: I voice skepticism to Donna about the reality of this threat.
Monday, June 7, 1999 11:48 AM
Email #3 from Donna Ruth to Rick Archer
Re : Further information on Government Email Scam
I tried to look up this bill on the Internet, but it does not
exist. There is a bill S. 602, but it relates to the IRS and in no way references e-mail.
Also, "Rep. Tony Schnell" is not listed in either the Senate or The House of
There is no such street as Concorde in Vienna, VA.
There is no such law firm as Berger, Stepp, and Gorman, either.
Rick, Could this be one of those fake warnings that we keep
Monday, June 7, 10 am
Email #4 from Rick Archer to Donna Ruth
Re: surprised and pleased the email threat has indeed turned out to be a hoax
Hi Donna, did you really take the time to check all this
stuff out or did someone just tell you it was nonsense ?
That is a big chunk of
money out of the Post Office pocket!!
I got another email message - the same one as you sent me - from
Ruth Ann Manison. She got suckered in last week by the same message, then one day later
came back with a similar retraction.
I might add that the warning
seemed real. For example, not longer I canceled the SSQQ Bulk Mail
Permit at the Post Office. I used to pay the Post Office $1,000 a month to
send out the SSQQ Schedule.
Now I use the SSQQ
Web Site to publish our Schedule. After switching to the Internet I now pay my web server $500 a year which
pales in comparison to $12,000 a year.
is saving me over $10,000 a year!!
Instead of keeping the Post Office busy with
30,000 pieces of mail, instead 100 people a day dial up the SSQQ Web Site to get the
information for free...
... the Post Office
has to be feeling the pinch
when businesses like mine around the country make similar decisions. Little newsletters
from churches and civic groups that I used to see at the bulk mail counter... you know,
200 leaflets to the neighborhood PTA and stuff like that... surely many of those can be read on
the net now.
I wouldnt be at all
surprised to see the government try to get a piece of this cyberspace action someday. I am
sure many Post Office executives are feeling just like the Pony Express guys felt when the
telephone wires and trains came along to do their job much faster and much cheaper.
Fri 06/11/1999 8:25 AM
Email #5 from Donna Ruth to Rick Archer
Re : Final Clarification on how Donna learned the truth about the Post Office Email Scam
Hi Donna, did you really take the time to check all this stuff
out or did someone just tell you it was nonsense ?
ACTUALLY, NO I DIDNT TAKE THE TIME TO CHECK OUT THE INFORMATION OR I WOULD NOT
HAVE SENT OUT THE FIRST "MEMO". AS IT TURNS OUT, I HAVE A SORORITY SISTER WHO IS
VERY PROFICIENT ON THE COMPUTER, AND COMFORTABLE WITH THE WEB, ETC, AND SHE DID ALL THE
"FINGER-WORK", THUS THE FOLLOW-UP NOTE.
WHAT WITH MELISSA, JESSICA, AND OTHER VIRUSES, ( OR WHOMEVER), IT SEEMED SENSIBLE TO
CONVEY THE INFO.
I BELIEVED THAT THE WARNING WAS REAL!
I KNOW YOU SAVE A LOT AND SO DO OTHER PEOPLE I KNOW. THAT IS TRULY A BIG, BIG CHUNK OF
MONEY THE POST OFFICE IS LOSING. I TOO FIND MYSELF E-MAILING MORE THAN LETTER
WRITING. FOR EXAMPLE MY INTERNATIONAL POSTAGE AT 60 CENTS A POP TIME FOR OVER 100 FORMER
STUDENTS GETS REAL OLD REAL FAST. THAT IS $60 !
NOW I EMAIL EVERY ONE OF THEM FOR FREE. AND I CAN TYPE PRETTY MUCH THE SAME MESSAGE AND
MAIL THEM ALL AT ONCE. AMAZING !
NOTHING SURPRISES ME ANYMORE. I JUST WISH I KNEW MORE ON HOW TO USE THE
ABOUT THE SCAM, SORRY FOR
(Editor's Note: Donna, and all the rest of you out
there as well, feel free to bother me any time you want if you are helping to
protect me from real or possibly real dangers ! That is what Community is all about.
Now, speaking of Danger, the next
article on Internet Lies is truly an amazing story.
To read about the "Clinton Hit
List", click here.