Email recipients are being offered religious salvation through the power of spam, according to security company MessageLabs.
The anti-spam company has intercepted a large number of spiritual emails in the last month, which it says are legal because they don't plug products, just religious ideals.
"It's on the rise for a number of reasons," said Matt Sergeant, anti-spam technologist for MessageLabs. "It is exempt from spam laws and it's legal according to most national laws including CAN-SPAM. It's not commercial and that's interesting in a way, because there is a cost, yet no financial return. But they may believe there is a spiritual return."
One of the emails read:
Subject: "Only believe"
Body text: "Eternity is a really long time. If you or someone close to you has not accepted God please do so tody [sic].
The following prayer can save you or someone that you love.
Say, 'Oh God, save my soul. I'm so sorry that I have sinned against you, but I have come home. I will serve you, Lord, the rest of my life. Deliver me from all my sinful habits. Set me free! I do believe Jesus died on Calvary for me, and I believe in His blood, that there is power in His blood to wash away all my sins, all my sins!' Say, 'Come into my heart, Jesus; come on in, Jesus. Come on in!' If you meant it, He has come. If you meant it, Jesus is yours. Start reading your Bible, pray daily and believe that somebody's listening;
His name is Jesus."
However, similar mails have preyed on victims' gullibility in variations of the Nigerian 419 scam. One sender sought a "better Christian individual" to receive $18.6m for religious purposes if they could put some money upfront.
MessageLabs said it believed users would see more religious oriented spam in the run-up to Christmas.
"It's been around for a long time, but has tended to be below the radar," said Sergeant. "This time there's been a large spam run so we can expect to see more of the same. It's becoming so cheap to do, even if you have little money you can still send millions of messages."