The information in this hoax message is completely untrue. AOL currently has no plans to start charging for its Instant Messaging service.
This absurd email hoax has been around in one form or another since at least 1999. The latest version is virtually identical to earlier incarnations except that a new deadline date has been added. From time to time, someone adds a more current date to the hoax message, and in some cases, a change in the number of signatures required. Thus “refreshed”, the new version once again gains momentum, duping the unwary as it travels from inbox to inbox.
If AOL did decide to start charging for their IM service, it certainly wouldn’t base this decision on how many email “signatures” it received before a specified date. A decision to start charging for a popular free service would only be implemented as a result of a well-researched business strategy. AOL would not try to gauge consumer reaction to such a charge by mounting a haphazard and unprofessional email petition on the subject. In any case, even when they are based on legitimate issues, email petitions are of very little value.
Besides, the email implies that AOL will supposedly be able to magically keep a count of how many people have participated in the “petition”. The message claims that each person the email is sent to counts as one “signature”. Presumably, therefore, AOL would need to implement some means of keeping track of how many emails were actually sent. Such an exercise on the scale required would be logistically impossible not to mention ethically questionable.
The inherent stupidity of this email message should really be enough to clearly identify it as just a foolish prank and thereby calm the fears of AOL’s army of loyal IM users. However, if any doubt remains, AOL has publicly denounced these messages as hoaxes via its online help files.
The help file includes the following disclaimer:
“If you received e-mail informing you of AOL’s plan to charge for the Instant Message (IM) feature or remove it from the service, the e-mail that you received is a hoax. Any allegation that America Online is planning to start charging for or take away the IM feature is false.”
AOL is not the only target of such hoaxes. Similar prank emails have claimed that Hotmail or Yahoo accounts will be terminated unless the messages are forwarded.
Dear America Online and Instant Messages users:
Our America online staff is planning to take away IM by July 18th, 2005. If you want to keep our IM free of charge, send this email to everyone you know. It will be used as a petition. Each person you send this to counts as one “signature” If this petition gets 100,000 signatures they will keep AOL IM.
If they do not receive 100,000 votes you will have to pay 15.00 to have IM (per month). If you don’t care about this then please for everyone’s sake help out a little. Thank you for your time and consideration and please help AOL beat their vote.
Our America on-line staff is planning to take away IM by May 9th, 2002. If you want to keep our IM free of charge, send this email to everyone you know. It will be used as a petition. Each person you send this to counts as one “signature” If this petition gets 100,000 signatures they will keep AOL IM. If they do not receive 100,000 votes you will have to pay $15.00 to have IM (per month). If you don’t care about this then please for everyone’s sake help out a little. Thank you for your time and consideration and please help beat their vote send it to more people.
Importance NoticeAfter considerable thought and with an ache in my heart, I have decided that the time has come to close down the Hoax-Slayer website.
These days, the site does not generate enough revenue to cover expenses, and I do not have the financial resources to sustain it going forward.
Moreover, I now work long hours in a full-time and physically taxing job, so maintaining and managing the website and publishing new material has become difficult for me.
And finally, after 18 years of writing about scams and hoaxes, I feel that it is time for me to take my fingers off the keyboard and focus on other projects and pastimes.
When I first started Hoax-Slayer, I never dreamed that I would still be working on the project all these years later or that it would become such an important part of my life. It's been a fantastic and engaging experience and one that I will always treasure.
I hope that my work over the years has helped to make the Internet a little safer and thwarted the activities of at least a few scammers and malicious pranksters.
A Big Thank YouI would also like to thank all of those wonderful people who have supported the project by sharing information from the site, contributing examples of scams and hoaxes, offering suggestions, donating funds, or helping behind the scenes.
I would especially like to thank David White for his tireless contribution to the Hoax-Slayer Facebook Page over many years. David's support has been invaluable, and I can not thank him enough.
Closing DateHoax-Slayer will still be around for a few weeks while I wind things down. The site will go offline on May 31, 2021. While I will not be publishing any new posts, you can still access existing material on the site until the date of closure.
Thank you, one and all!