New Spam Scam Exploits Pope's Death

A new spam campaign is exploiting people's interest in and grief over the death of Pope John Paul II.
A new spam campaign is exploiting people's interest in and grief over the death of Pope John Paul II.

The spam claims to offer readers a free collection of books written by the late pope. The email tells users to click on a link to receive the gift, but the link actually takes them to a Web site offering ''free money-making advice''.

''This is absolutely slimy,'' says Carole Theriault, a security consultant with Sophos, Inc., an anti-virus and anti-spam company with U.S. headquarters in Lynnfield, Mass. ''We started seeing this scam over the weekend, soon after the pope's funeral... They're using the pope's name with all the news surrounding his death and the emotional investment to fool people.''

Pope John Paul II's funeral was held Friday, April 8.

Theriault says this is just the latest example of spammers using current headlines and emotional topics to lure people in.

''We're seeing an increasing amount of spam using current events to get into people's inboxes,'' she says. ''They're stealing headlines from CNN to try to bypass simple spam filters... It's tasteless. People don't like being mislead. If they want a book on Pope John Paul II, they don't want to be misdirected to a site about money-making secrets.''

Theriault notes that similar spam campaigns were launched soon after the Dec. 26 tsunami crisis.

''Spammers are prepared to plumb the depths in their attempt to get Internet users to buy their goods or services,'' adds Graham Cluley, senior technology consultant for Sophos. ''The pope's death has been mourned by millions around the world, yet for the spammers it's just another opportunity to sell their unwanted wares.''

Theriault says she doesn't think this particular campaign will be a long-lasting one.

''We expect this particular spam campaign to die out as the stories about the pope's death and funeral trickle from our news bulletins,'' she says. ''However, we can be sure that spammers will try and capitalise on the next world event, be it a disaster or a triumph.''

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