Iphtashu Fitz writes "We've all seen it. The e-mail forwarded to us from a friend who got it from a coworker whose sister's cousin's roommate's great aunt knows somebody at Microsoft. The one from Bill Gates himself offering you cash to forward the e-mail to others in order to test out their new e-mail tracking system. If you haven't received that one you've undoubtedly gotten other e-mail hoaxes offering anything from gift certificates to free computers to free airline tickets. How do these sorts of hoaxes start and who starts them? Well Jonathon Keats at Wired Magazine decided to track down the origin of the Bill Gates e-mail tracking hoax. After a few dead ends he finally located then-student Bryan Mack, who created the hoax on November 18, 1997 while at the University of Houston. In Mack's own words: 'It was just a joke between a couple friends' that eventually got out of hand. One of his buddies had gotten a make-money-fast spam and Mack said 'I can come up with something better than that.' Three minutes later, Bill Gates' email-tracing program was born. At first he just sent it to a few friends, but those friends sent it to other friends (and so on), and it didn't take long for the e-mail to transform from a joke to a full-fledged hoax."
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