The world of spam.

Spam involves forcefully sending copies of worthless messages to Internet users, in a bid to make easy money. A person who sends spam is called a spammer. With the advent of spam filters and prevention software, success rates of spam in email have decreased. However, illegal SEO schemes and Internet malware have led to the rise of web-based spam. The anti-spam prosecution laws, which were originally put in place to combat email spam, struggle to deal with web-based spammers.

How does it work?

Spammers send millions of emails each day. And to meet their targets, they accompany them with web based spam. Overall, around 250 billion spam messages are circulated by spammers in a month with a success rate of 0.00001%.  Every time a person responds to a spam message or clicks on a link, some amount of money goes to the spammer. The sum a spammer earns varies depending on the number of clicks and the number of successful responses. And the best part to the spammer is that it costs practically nothing to do this work.

How much money do spammers make?

You must’ve wondered at some stage that given the low success rates and highly monotonous work involved, why do spammers do what they do? Do they even make money?  Well the answer is yes and the amount of money they earn can be substantial. According to Chris Kanich and his team of researchers from UC San Diego, spammers can make about $7000 on an average day and up to $2M a year. Planning to quit your job already?

Another set of researchers from Italy have estimated that some Facebook spammers have made around $200m in a year. Di Micheli, the researcher said – “The spam posters get paid an average of $13 per post, for pages that have around 30,000 fans, up to an average of $58 to post on pages with more than 100,000 fans”.

How many people actually respond to spam?

From the data collected from various surveys, it has been found that most people who have accessed spam have done it by accident. Some browsers which are infected by viruses promptly open spam without the user’s intention. Also, there are a large number of people who access spam out of curiosity, with genuine interest in the offer or to unsubscribe from the service.

How do spammers find my email address?

There are some primary sources for a spammer to find a person’s email.

  • The Web- there are thousands of websites on the Internet and “spambots”, automated scanners, look for email addresses and harvest them.
  • News groups, discussion forums, chat rooms, online gaming and dating sites are useful sources, as naive users may leave their screen names and E-mail addresses for public view, which are extracted by spammers using similar automated bots.
  • Pure guess work! Spammers will try sending emails to popular domains like gmail.com and yahoo.com, simply guessing names can be highly successful. In such popular sites, you can guarantee a high success rate sending emails to random combinations of common first names and surnames.
  • Finally, many websites are created with the view to attract email addresses. Pop up boxes, competitions or lottery websites with messages like “You are our lucky winner” entice users to enter their email in the hope of an attractive prize.

Unfortunately, there is no perfect way to protect yourself from spam. However, being careful where your email is published and not clicking on junk email can considerably reduce the number of messages you’ll get. If you receive any spam with an ‘unsubscribe’ link, don’t click on it! Contrary to what you may think, clicking on the link will simple confirm your email address is active and will open you to receiving many more messages.