Marks & Spencer email hoax resurgence

Graham Cluley
Graham Cluley
@[email protected]

Marks & Spencer email hoax resurgence

An email chain letter claiming that legendary British retailer Marks & Spencer are offering up to £500 in free vouchers has seen a resurgence in the last couple of weeks. We first encountered it in the summer of 2007, but it appears it has recently had something of a revival, with many people visiting our website searching for information.

To get an idea of how the hoax has grown in recent days, check out the graphic below. It shows the growth in ‘hits’ on our webpage describing the Marks & Spencer chain letter:

Marks and Spencer hoax email resurgence

You can see how hits drop at weekends – presumably as people are away from their work email accounts. It will be interesting to monitor whether this hoax grows in popularity as this week begins, or whether word spreads that it is nonsense.

The problem with hoaxes and chain letters, of course, is that they’re next to impossible to kill off forever. There will always be someone who thinks it’s much easier to forward a message onto their friends than Google to see if they are nonsense or not.

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The text of a typical hoax email reads as follows:

Dear all,

Marks & Spencers, in conjunction with Persimmon Homes, are giving away free vouchers. Marks & Spencers are trying word-of-mouth advertising to introduce its products and the reward you receive for advertising for them is free non-refundable vouchers to be used in any M&S store.

To receive your free vouchers by e-mail all you have to do is to send this email out to 8 people (for £100 of free vouchers) or 20 people (for £500 of free vouchers). Within 2 weeks you will receive an e-mail with your vouchers attached.

They will contact you through your e-mail address.

Please mark a copy to:

Obviously, forwarding this chain letter to your friends and family will only continue the nuisance – and Persimmon Homes will appreciate not being cc’d on your email.

Graham Cluley is an award-winning keynote speaker who has given presentations around the world about cybersecurity, hackers, and online privacy. A veteran of the computer security industry since the early 1990s, he wrote the first ever version of Dr Solomon's Anti-Virus Toolkit for Windows, makes regular media appearances, and is the co-host of the popular "Smashing Security" podcast. Follow him on Twitter, Mastodon, Threads, Bluesky, or drop him an email.

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