UPDATE: Human Rights USA appears to have closed up shop. You can still find their website here, courtesy of the Internet Archive. They did fantastic work, and we will miss them.
From Nigerian scams to missives about Viagra, most of us have dealt with obnoxious spam and feel confident in ignoring it. But what about when the spam just *might* be true? What if it mentions to one of our pet interests or flatters us? What if we just don’t want to blow a potentially amazing opportunity? Fraudsters soliciting money by masquerading as a non-profit organization can capitalize on any one of these doubts. In this case, the World Human Right Organization (a spammer or group of spammers) is inviting people around the world to a Human Rights conference in Washington DC. As an intern for the similarly named but quite different World Organization for Human Rights, I was pretty peeved when we started getting calls from people all around the world asking if an email they received, (see samples here, here and here) inviting them to a new Human Rights conference in Washington DC, was legitimate.
Non-profits are not made of resources, and if all this fake organization was doing was wasting the time of our executive assistant, they would still be doing serious harm. But these spammers are also soliciting personal information (see their website–read a bit closer to see it is a total scam) and donations.
In the course of investigating this spammer, I stumbled upon a neat sub-culture: spam-baiters. These vigilantes make a hobby of harassing spammers. Whether at 419eaters (Nigerian scams are called 419 scams because of section 419 of the Nigerian penal-code is the one which deals with fraud), fraudwatchers or the thescambaiter, there are people who spend their free-time tying spammers into knots, and keeping them away from unsuspecting or overly-hopeful victims.
The World Human Right Organization is wasting the time of the organization for which I am interning and attempting to defraud interested human rights activists, is fake, a fraud, and a purveyor of spam. Bait them or ignore them, but don’t believe them.
“There is no constitutional requirement that the incremental cost of sending massive quantities of unsolicited advertisements must be borne by the recipients.”–Judge Graham, Compuserve vs. Cyber Promotions