I love my friends. I love the sentiment behind a lot of the things they send me. I know that my friends and family with internet access care about me and would not dream of doing anything to me, and others in their e-mail address books that would put us at risk. Their only mistake is naivete in allowing themselves to be used as pawns to get to the e-mail addresses of all their friends. Bearing all that in mind, it is time to take a stand.
First, let me present a scenario to you. This method of collecting e-mail addresses is known by some spammers as the "social engineering method." You are being tricked into send your e-mail addresses as well as those of your friends and family to those who harvest e-mail addresses to spam or to sell to other spammers. It works like this:
Spam creep #1 (and thousands more of his/her kind) composes an e-mail. This e-mail will play on your emotions, your patriotism, or your spirituality. One example of such emotion-charged e-mails is the e-mails that include pictures of our troops showing kindness, accompanied by a political statement of how our troops are being disrespected, requesting prayer for our troops and, finally, challenging the recipient of the e-mail to forward it to everyone in their address book. The most egregious of these are the ones that imply that if you do not forward the e-mail, you must be unpatriotic or unappreciative of the sacrifices of our service men and women in our behalf. Other examples are stories of miraculous interventions by The Creator, again accompanied with encouragement to pray and to forward the e-mail in order to convert someone in need of salvation and to harvest some kind of blessing for yourself. Again, the most egregious will question the strength of your faith if you do not forward the e-mail to everyone in your address book.
Now, these e-mails get sent out to a bunch of people. That bunch of people will hit "forward" and send it to ten friends, who will then be guilted into forwarding it to ten more friends, and on and on. I've received e-mails with series of "to:" fields full of the e-mail addresses of literally hundreds of people I do not know. Eventually, these e-mails, loaded with new, validated e-mail addresses make it back to Spam Creep #1 or another Spam Creep who is willing to sell this list of newly harvested, mostly validated e-mail addresses to other Spam Creeps.
Don't forward these e-mails, PLEASE.
If you simply can not resist, at least protect people before you forward this crap. How do you protect others? REMOVE ALL E-MAIL ADDRESSES already present in the e-mail before you forward it. A new twist designed to get you to bypass taking protective action is the "time limit" ploy. To qualify for your "blessing" or some other promised good karma, you must forward within a certain time limit from when you open the e-mail - when you are trying to "beat the clock" you are less likely to clean up the e-mail and remove exposed e-mail addresses before forwarding it on to someone else. That bit of silliness alone should send up red flags that the e-mail you are considering forwarding is a malicious e-mail. Some, still, will not be able to resist forwarding. The very least you can do is to use "BCC" to protect the people you are forwarding to (you know, friends and loved ones)
BCC stands for "Blind Carbon Copy." When you put all the addresses you are forwarding to in the field marked "BCC" those addresses become invisible and can not be harvested.
Excerpt from article, "How do spammers harvest email addresses?", by Uri Raz:
As invisible email addresses can't be harvested, it's good advice to have the email addresesses of recipients of jokes & the like on BCc:, and if forwarded from somebody else remove from the email's body all the email addresses inserted by the previous sender.
Now, here is the "how to" for sending e-mails via BCC:
When you get ready to forward the e-mail and add the names of the victims, er, friends, you are forwarding the message to, click directly on "To:" In most programs, this will open a drop down menu with some options such as "CC" and "BCC." Do everyone a favor and select "BCC"
Anyone who has an e-mail program that requires a different approach to accessing the "BCC:" field option, please post your information. Thunderbird also has a neat add-on called "Recipient Box Manager" that is making multiple BCC forwards quick and easy, imho.