We recently conducted a study where we looked to answer this very question. Our goal was not to criticize or judge what these people do or how they conduct their business. Instead, it was to gain a unique insight on the world of spamming; to shed the cloak of mystery regarding who spammers really are and why they spam.
Who are spammers?
Spammers come from every walk of life, every country worldwide and every socio-economic condition. Their work is one of contradiction. Spammers work in a secretive environment, constantly straddling the fence between legal and illegal, moral and immoral.
The study we conducted features views and opinions from three different spammers who present various degrees of experience in the business. Following are a few extracts from the study, which highlight the spammers' motivation and their perception of the impact they have on the internet community. All identities have been kept anonymous.
Does spam pay?
Yes. The prime motivation for all spammers is financial - spammers are in it for the money, plain and simple.
Spammers measure the success of a campaign strictly upon the amount of money they can acquire.
"I calculated that I earned around $1,200.00 per week last year. The most I earned in a week was $6,500.00, and the least was $1.00, so I have done the gambit," - Thomas
"I have made as little as $150 per campaign or as much as $2,000.00. It depends on the product, timing and my creativity." – Virginia
The rate of success that spammers attain varies wildly, and is dependant on a number of factors including:
· Type of offer: Spammers will launch campaigns to correspond with specific times of the year or specific trends.
"I have been very successful with low-carb diet plans especially after Christmas when everyone wanted to lose weight" – Virginia
· Delivery method: Because the rate of success for a spammer could be as low as 1 in 50,000, spammers must send out millions of e-mails in order to generate sales.
"I have to send out at least five million messages in order to get any profit," - Thomas
The use of criminal activities such as hijacking third party servers is rampant in the world of spammers. Hijacking enables a spammer to distribute hundreds of times more spam in a very short period of time, without cost.
"I have never received complaints, but I assume that some of the servers I have used have received complaints... A good spammer is not traceable." - Thomas
· Circumventing spam filters: In order to maximize the amount of messages that get through to their prospective customers, most spammers test on one or more spam filters.
"I test on the spam filter in my father's office, if I can get through it, then I can get through most spam filters." - Virginia
The law and spammers
Despite the advent of new legislations designed to combat spam, it has had very limited effects on spammers.
"Right now, the US government has had zero results in controlling spam. Perhaps if they review some of its problems (CAN SPAM) then it will have an effect." – Matt
"I do not think that it will have any effect in the short run, it is a little convoluted, it is untested, and the reality is who will bother enforcing it. The price it would cost to prosecute a spammer is a lot more than the cost of spamming." - Thomas
What is the greatest myth about spammers?
"We're not horrible people; we are earning a livelihood like everyone else. I wish people could appreciate just how hard it is to properly create an effective marketing message." - Virginia
"We are not all parasites. Most are but not all of us." - Thomas
We are often asked for our views on how the spam problem can be solved definitely. "Why Spammers Spam" is a part of our answer. It does not advocate one technology over another, nor does it promote anti-spam products. It only highlights one undisputable fact; as long as spammers will be making money at minimal – if any - risk, there will be no stopping them from sending tons of virtual junk to our mailboxes.
A complete copy of "Why Spammer Spam" is available from Vircom at: