Miriam O'Callaghan: ambassador

THOUSANDS of people have been bombarded with a fake chain email purporting to raise money for a seven-year-old Irish girl terminally ill with cancer. The cruel email, which claims to have come from the Make-a-Wish foundation, promises that every time the message is forwarded, seven cents will be donated towards a life-saving operation.

The young girl is named as Amy Bruce in the email and she describes how she has "a large tumour on my brain and severe lung cancer".

It continues: "The doctors say I will die soon if this isn't fixed, and my family can't pay the bills. The Make-A-Wish foundation has agreed to donate seven cents for every time this message is sent on.

"For those of you who send this along, I thank you so much. But for those who don't send it, I will still pray for you. Please, if you are a kind person, have a heart. Please, please, please hit the forward button."

The email has been circulated to thousands of Irish people and forwarded to government TDs, senators and a number of different government departments.

However, the Make-A-Wish foundation said the email is entirely bogus and that it would not get involved in any chain messages. It said: "Each day, the Make-A-Wish foundation and its affiliates receive hundreds of enquiries about chain letters claiming to be associated with [us]... and featuring sick children.

"If you receive a chain letter claiming ties to the foundation, please inform the sender that the foundation does not participate in chain-letter wishes. Refer the sender and all recipients [to our website]. Do not forward the chain letter. Refer senders to ways they can help the foundation, such as referring a child, making a donation, organising a fundraising event or becoming a volunteer."

The foundation ­– whose celebrity ambassadors include broadcaster Miriam O'Callaghan and golfer Padraig Harrington – said it wasted countless hours dealing with bogus emails.

Internet experts said there was no way in which money could be raised through a chain mail. One said: "It would simply be impossible and if people see anything like this involving forwarded email, they can rest assured that it is bogus. "In general, if people come across something on the internet that appears too good or too easy to be true, then it probably is."