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Religious spam

Among the tech-geek volunteering that I do for my church, I administrate their e-mail listserver which they use to communicate among their various committees, support groups, and the big parishioner broadcast e-mail list that is used to send periodic parish-wide announcements.

But there’s a slimy side-effect of this volunteering: I see a fair amount of Christian-oriented spam. The spams are sent both to the lists themselves (thankfully the listserver automatically discards posts from non-members) and to the technical addresses associated with the lists (e.g., the “owner” e-mail aliases, etc.). The spams masquerade as things that a Christian church should want to send to its parishioners: “Fatima retreats,” “Cost-effective bibles,” and my personal favorite: “Hear [insert pseudo-religious name]’s message for peace.” There’s even offers to enable you to spam “your important religious messages to tens of thousands of Christians.” Amazing (but sadly not surprising).

Some of the spams are clearly made by public relations professionals — slick graphic spreads featuring sincere, distinguished-looking men in religious-looking robes holding bibles and/or preaching from a pulpit. They’ve obviously got some real money behind these endeavors — many of them have real web sites with information supporting the content in their e-mail.

Although these spams masquerade as legitimate businesses and have professional appearances, they are just the same as your common word-misspelling / random-phrase anti-spam defeating / image-based 419, pharmaceutical, and stock pump-n-dump scams: it’s all about the money. You have to pay to see whatever valuable message they need to deliver to you to guarantee your salvation.

One could easily argue that it costs money to do anything in this world, even to put out the good word of your favorite religious message. And it’s quite probable that some of these messages are from real organizations who are just trying to put out the good word of their god. Fair enough. But when when these announcements are sent unsolicited to “postmaster@lists.mychurch’s.domain,” they’ve lost the moral high ground: that’s clearly an attempt to drum up business. The fact that I only get this kind of spam from e-mail addresses associated with my church clearly indicate that the spammers are targeting religious organizations.

I know to ignore these scams and report them as spam to our ISP. But others don’t. Spam wrapped up in religious overtones can be a lot more attractive because it plays on an emotional response from its intended victims. How many not-internet-savvy users have fallen for these schemes? I have no idea — I freely admit that I’ve done zero research in this area; this journal entry is solely based on my opinion.

But the fact that I continue to receive these spams, some of which clearly cost a lot of money to make, is quite discouraging / saddening.

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This page contains a single entry from the blog posted on September 22, 2007 9:34 AM.

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