Bibles for the Needy

This week’s email fraud post deals with scams that take advantage of your religious beliefs. Variations of this approach have been used to separate the faithful from their money for hundreds, if not thousands, of years. These days they do it using email.

The example we’re addressing today uses the subject “BIBLES FOR THE NEEDY” but there are many similar frauds that also appeal to the call to evangelize. We’ve seen letters about church planting, funding missions and missionaries, spreading the Word of God and rescuing persecuted clergy. All fake and all preying on those who wish to help do “the Lord’s Work”.

Subject: BIBLES FOR THE NEEDY

From: <genevieve.barrachina@ac-nice.fr>

Reply-to: useh4jesus2009@yahoo.com.hk

To: undisclosed-recipients: ;

Dear Brethren in Christ,

I bring you greetings in Jesus blessed name. Please read my mail and let God speak to you about us.

I am the Founder of the Ijeremu Community Church here in the City of Benin, Edo State – Nigeria. God has been using us in wining Souls
into His Kingdom and Praise God for the Lives of these Souls. And I do hope that we can work together in reaching out to more Souls in
villages and Community where they have not heard the saving message of our Lord Jesus Christ here in Nigeria.

My country is a poor country with much suffering but we who are bought and saved by His blood refuse that the situation in our country
controls our emotions and way of thinking. Our live is transformed by the renewing of our minds and that is what give us victory and keeps
us going. I gave my life to Christ, washed by His blood about 14 years ago after been an idol worshipper which is my family religion from
youth. I got baptized five months thereafter. I have remain in the faith all through these years.

I am writing believing that you could help us for 20 Giant Print bibles. The Souls that need them are old and devoted to Christ. In all I ask
for your help for 20 bibles giant characters. I know that this would cost you some money to fulfill and I have prayed and will continue to pray
that our heavenly Father make the provision for you to help us and as you sow this seed he will bless you.

I pray that God will bless you and make you be like a very fruitful tree in time of need so that many can eat and take shade from it. “And God
is able to make all grace abound toward you; that ye, always having all sufficiency in all things, may abound to every good work.” II
Corinthians 9:8.

In Christian love,

Pastor genevieve barrachina
Ijeremu Community Church
25, Ijeremu Lane
G.P.O 8950
Benin City Edo State 300001
Nigeria.

Our first clue that this is fraud comes from the subject being all caps. Many email fraudsters use fully capitalized subjects. Interestingly, they seem to be the only group that does this so this is usually a pretty good indicator of fraud. (On the other hand, not all fraud emails have fully capitalized subjects so don’t assume that messages with normal capitalization in their subjects are not fraud.)

Next, we looked up the person in the “From:” address and in the final salutation “genevieve barrachina”. It turns out that this is a real person who’s address is published online at this site. (A site that would probably benefit from using our email address encoding tool to hide the addresses it’s putting on the web.) While Genevieve does work for an organization that promotes multicultural dialog (in Europe!) it doesn’t say anything about her being a pastor in Nigeria. Another strike.

This fraud message is particularly sophisticated in that it was able to actually send from the domain listed in the “From: ” address (ac-nice.fr). This suggests that ac-nice.fr is running an open or at least “not very well constrained” relay allowing the fraudsters to send fraudulent messages that, as far as the mail headers are concerned, are  indistinguishable from mail sent by Genevieve herself. Fortunately there are other clues.

The “Reply-to:” address is “useh4jesus2009@yahoo.com.hk”. This is the address you are intended to contact (by hitting the Reply button in your email client). This address is on a Yahoo! server in Hong Kong! Since Genevieve has a perfectly good address from a provider in France, it seems unlikely that she’d use a Hong Kong address to receive replies. This is another fraud indicator.

Interestingly, anybody who replies by copying the “From:” address will actually be sending mail to Genevieve Barrachina. We suspect that she gets a lot of strange email from people trying to send her bibles.  (Genevieve, if you’re reading this, you should get an email address from an Internet provider that knows how to lock down their servers and drop this one if you haven’t already. If it’s important for you to keep it you might want to try our personal address filtering product.)

The body of the message exhibits bad line wrapping indicative of an old email client. This type of line wrapping in email messages was common in the mid to late 90s but is almost never seen with modern email clients. These days it’s a pretty good indication that the message is fraud (unless you are corresponding with someone from a “third world” country).

The message body also purports to be a first person missive from Genevieve Barrachina who, according to the website linked above doesn’t appear to be from Nigeria or someone who was once an “idol worshiper”. (Obviously we’re stereotyping a bit with this.  It’s not impossible that the person pictured here meets both criteria, but it does seem unlikely.)

All in all, to our trained eyes, this message is overwhelmingly fraudulent. Hopefully, having read this post you will be better able to spot email fraud. Our final piece of advice is, if you wish to donate to any worthy cause, it’s best if you seek them out and check their credentials.

The following are some links to help you allocate your donations:

California Attorney General’s Office

CAF America

Charity Navigator

Updated 5/21/2010

Oh those poor orphaned kids:

Subject: HELP THE ORPHANAGE

From: GOSPEL DEFENDER MINISTRIES <help@yahoo.com>

To: [Blank]

Dear Sir/Madam,

On behalf of Gospel Defender Ministries Intl. We say greetings to you and your
family or establishment as the case may be.

Gospel Defender Ministries is a church that is based on the southern part of
Nigeria,Edo State to be precise and have been in existence for more than 18
years.Since the start of this great Ministry,we have grown to be of great
influence to the general public,We now have a Basic Hospital for the health of
people in our Region,a School have also been attached and also a Football Club
to keep people out of danger and make them busy with good life.

We have also been giving donations to Orphanages,Less Previlege and the
Physically challenge by giving the little that we can get from the church.The
reason for this mail now is to inform the General public about what we have
done so far and also to let them know of what we plan to do in the days
ahead.We are now seeking the General public assistance and aid to make
donations to assist the scheme that we have been projecting.

We seek donations from people/churches/organisations all over the world that
will also assist this people,The less previlege,The Motherless Babies Home,The
Orphanages and also the Physically challenge.We are requesting that if you are
interested in making any donation to help this scheme,Do inform us and we shall
get back to you with more details on how you can send your donation to the
church bank account.

Be informed that this is a help development scheme,we dont need to inform you
that this is not a SCam,You can confirm about this church from authourities in
Nigeria,and they will inform you that Gospel Defenders Church is indeed an
existing church,If you need to be sure that this is an existing church,Then we
shall send you Gospel Defender Ministries account details that will prove to
you that this is indeed a genuine help assist scheme.

Kindly send us a reply mail if you wish to assist this scheme and we shall get
back to you with what have to be done.
Send us a reply mail if you wish to make any donation/assistance to help the
Orphanages,and we shall get back to you with more details.

Awaiting to hear from you soonest.

Regards
Bishop Dr Fred.O.Aghedo

“This is not a SCam”. Yeah right.

Let’s see: all caps subject; from Nigeria; bad grammar and formatting; generic greeting. We could go further but why bother?

We do have to give them credit for coming up with a cool “From:” address: help@yahoo.com. You’d think the folks at Yahoo! would’ve reserved that one for themselves.

Updated 10/4/2010 with another example:

Subject: GREETINGS IN THE NAME OF THE LORD?

From: christian <susancatterall01@usa.com>

To: undisclosed-recipients:;

Hello and thanks for taking your time to read this message.
I just want to know if you believe in the following……

DO YOU BELIEVE IN LIFE AFTER DEATH?
DO YOU BELIEVE A SOUL CAN MAKE A HUNDRED HAPPY?
DO YOU WISH TO BE SEEN AS A PHILANTHROPIST?

if you believe in all these,reply and i will tell you more.

Stay blessed
Susan Catterall

If you answered “Yes” to any of the questions above, be very careful about who you do your philanthropy with. See the links above for help in finding legitimate charities.

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