Why Does SPAM Exist?

The definition of SPAM is anonymous, unsolicited bulk email.

Take a closer look at each element of the definition:

Anonymous: SPAM is sent with harvested sender addresses to conceal the actual sender.

Mass mailing: SPAM is sent in large quantities. SPAMMERS make money from the small percentage of recipients who respond so for SPAM to be cost-effective, the initial emails have to be high-volume.

Unsolicited: mailing lists, newsletters, and other advertising materials that end users have opted to receive may resemble SPAM, but are actually legitimate email. In other words, the same piece of email can be classed as both SPAM and legitimate email depending on whether or not the user elected to receive it.

Emails you did not ask for that were sent in bulk from senders you do not know are suspicious of being SPAM. Newsletters you did sign up for, an email from a friend, and messages from people trying to contact you personally are not SPAM. A newsletter somebody signed you up for is not SPAM but a different kind of email abuse. An email sent to you in bulk by an unknown sender you do in fact welcome and find useful may not be SPAM either.

Every email you asked for is not SPAM but not every email you did not ask for is SPAM.

Why does SPAM Exists?

The reason SPAM is thriving is because it works! People do buy products advertised in junk email. SPAM works because it is cheap to send. SPAMMERS employ everything from SPAM-friendly ISPs to ordinary people’s computers transformed into SPAM-machines, and they can send their junk inexpensively. The risk of getting caught is substantial and comes at a significant cost. However, not costly enough to offset the profitability of sending SPAM.

Why is SPAM Evil?

SPAM is bad because the cost is incurred by the recipient. SPAM costs time, money, and resources, making email a significantly less attractive medium. Fortunately there are Email Service Providers who abide by the rules and show users the proper ways to email market.

It should be mentioned that the words “advertising” and “commercial” are not used to define SPAM. Many SPAM messages are neither advertising nor any type of commercial offer. In addition to providing merchandise and services, SPAM mailings can fall into many categories:

  • Political messages
  • Charity requests
  • Financial cons
  • Fake SPAM being used to spread malware

Because some unsolicited correspondence may be of interest to the recipient, a quality anti-SPAM solution should be able to distinguish between true SPAM (unsolicited, bulk mailing) and unsolicited correspondence.

Remember, email SPAM targets individual users with direct email messages. Email SPAM lists are often created by scanning postings, stealing internet mailing lists, or searching the web for addresses. Email SPAM typically cost users money to receive. Many people, for example anyone with calculated phone service, read or receive their email while the meter is running. SPAM costs them additional money. On top of that, it costs money for ISPs and online services to transmit SPAM, and these costs are transmitted directly to you – the subscribers.

*Did You Know? The actual first documented commercial SPAM message was for a new model of Digital Equipment Corporation computers and was sent on ARPANET to 393 recipients by Gary Thuerk in 1978.

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