Marks & Spencer Voucher Giveaway Hoax

Message claims that Marks & Spencer and Persimmon Homes are giving away vouchers worth up to £500 for those who forward the email to others.


Fw: Free M&S vouchers

Marks & Spencer’s, in conjunction with Persimmon Homes, are giving away free vouchers. Marks & Spencer’s 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:[email address removed]

Detailed Analysis:
This email forward claims that UK retailer, Marks & Spencer and UK building company Persimmon Homes are offering free vouchers to people who forward the email to a specified number of people. According to the message, those who forward the email to 8 people will receive £100 worth of M&S vouchers while those who forward it to 20 people will receive M&S vouchers valued at £500.

However, the claims in the message are entirely untrue. The email is just one more in a long line of similar hoaxes that claim money, vouchers or products are being given away in exchange for forwarding a message.

As the following example illustrates, it seems that the prankster responsible has simply used an older hoax about free mobile phones as a template and altered company and product details accordingly:

SonyErricsson is giving away phones for free. SonyErricsson is Trying word-of-mouth advertising to introduce its product and the reward You receive for advertising for them is a free phone free of cost.

To receive your free phone all you have to do is to send this email Out to 8 people (for a free SonyErricsson j200i) or 20 people (for a Free SonyErricsson k400i WAP).

Within 2 weeks you will receive a free phone. (They will contact you through your e-mail address). Please mark a copy to: –

In turn, the “SonyErricsson” hoax is just a modified version of an even older hoax that claimed Nokia was the company passing out free phones. Yet another version claims participants will receive a free laptop computer for forwarding messages. Not one of these various incarnations has even a grain of truth and the Marks & Spencer Voucher version is no exception.

The strong similarity to earlier versions is enough by itself to clearly identify the message as a hoax. Moreover, Persimmon Homes has now published a message on its website denying any involvement in the supposed promotion:

A hoax e-mail is being circulated offering a promotion of free Marks and Spencer vouchers for forwarding the e-mail to colleagues and friends.

Neither Marks and Spencer or Persimmon Homes have made any such promotional offer.

Please delete the hoax e-mail and notify the people to whom you have sent it that it is a hoax.

No legitimate company is ever likely to run a promotional campaign based on how many times a particular email is forwarded. It is simply absurd to suggest that a company would give away expensive products or vouchers in exchange for the haphazard and uncontrolled forwarding of an email. The reach and ease of use of email means that such a message could find its way to hundreds of thousands of inboxes within weeks. Given that there are no conditions or limitations included in the message, a participating company could soon find itself obligated to hand over millions of dollars worth of products or vouchers.

Of course, many companies do run promotional giveaways of various kinds. However, such promotions are sure to be very tightly controlled via time constraints, maximum expenditure limits or other qualifying factors. And information about a promotion, along with conditions or limitations, will be made available to consumers via advertising, product labels, official entry forms, the company website and other legitimate channels. Such information certainly would not rely solely on the random journey of a vague and poorly written email message.

In short, any message that claims that a particular company or organization is giving away money, products or services based on how many times an email is forwarded is virtually certain to be a hoax. Forwarding such messages serves only to clutter inboxes and waste bandwidth.

Last updated: 5th June 2007
First published: 5th June 2007
By Brett M. Christensen
About Hoax-Slayer

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