Ars Technica: 12% of e-mail users have actually tried to buy stuff from spam.
[The Messaging Anti-Abuse Working Group (MAAWG)] conducted 800 interviews by phone and Internet across the US with people who had e-mail addresses not managed by a corporate IT staff. It found that two-thirds of the group said that they were very or somewhat experienced with Internet security, and a majority used filters of some kind in order to avoid spam. Eighty-two percent were aware of bots and botnets, though not many believed they were at risk of being victimized by one.
Slightly less than half (48 percent) said that they have never clicked on a spam e-mail. That’s the good news, but that means the other half have clicked on or responded to spam. But why? The answers will undoubtedly horrify you. A full 12 percent said that they were interested in the product or service being offered—those erection drug and mail order bride ads do reach a certain market, it appears.
Seventeen percent said that they made a mistake when they did so—understandable—but another 13 percent said they simply had no idea why they did it; they just did. Another six percent “wanted to see what would happen.”
(Interestingly, a larger percentage of people who were interviewed by phone said that they had never acted on a spam message compared to those who answered online. Guess it’s true that users would rather not admit their foibles when speaking to a real person.)
“Although a small percentage of the computing population, these numbers still earn a significant enough return on investment to support a booming spam-driven underground economy,” wrote MAAWG. Indeed, with spam making up a very large majority of all e-mail traffic—Microsoft recently claimed it was at 97 percent—even low sellthrough rates are enough to make things very profitable. With botnets supposedly sending more than 80 percent of that spam (according to Symantec), there are now relatively few man-hours involved in making money from a spam-based business. Just set it and forget it.
I really don’t know what there is to say about this. Somewhere, PT Barnum is laughing his ass off. Thanks to Dwight for the link.