Pretend Invitations


Choosing between people you want to invite to a function and people you have to invite is sometimes difficult. Say Alice wants to invite Tom, Dick, and Harry to a party, but she'd actually prefer if Dick didn't show up. Here's how Alice can send invitations by email from an email-capable Unix system to achieve the desired result, while covering her scheming with plausible deniability.

Alice would type the following on her system's command console.

From: Alice Smith 
To: Tom Smith ,
 Dick Smith ,
 Harry Smith 
Subject: Party invitation

Dear Tom, Dick, and Harry,

I'm hosting a party, tomorrow 22:00, my place.  I'd love to see you.

This will send the message only to Tom and Harry's email addresses listed as arguments to the sendmail command, but the actual message will show that the recipients were Tom, Dick, and Harry. If Dick by accident found out about the party (from, say, Tom or Harry, who will see his name on the message recipient list) Alice can plausibly claim that somehow her email got lost.


  • Don't believe what you read on the message From and To lists, especially during the festive season.
  • Some ostensibly "lost" email messages may in fact never have been sent at all.

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Last modified: Wednesday, December 28, 2011 12:29 am

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Unless otherwise expressly stated, all original material on this page created by Diomidis Spinellis is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.