One-Third of Survey-Takers Respond To Spam Emails

One of the questions that occasionally get ask is “Why is there so much SPAM?” Here’s an insight…

I recently came across a statistic that sent shivers down my spine and the spine of anyone responsible for keeping more than a single personal computer safe: according to the Messaging Anti-Abuse Working Group (MAAWG), about one-third of individuals admit to responding to spam emails.

Excuses for Responding:

  1. “Made a mistake”.
  2. “Sent a note”.
  3. “Interested in product/service”.
  4. “Unsure/don’t know”.
  5. “Wanted to see what would happen.”

MAAWG interviewed 800 American and Canadian Internet users, so its data is statistically significant and can’t be dismissed as insignificant. And when you consider that there were probably more people who have responded to spam but didn’t admit it (surveys on embarrassing subjects often under-represent problems), the matter looks even worse.

People don’t have particularly good excuses for clicking on spam messages, either. Their leading reason is “made a mistake.” The second one is “sent a note,” followed by “interested in product/service.” Finally – and this is really scary stuff – there’s just “unsure/don’t know” and “wanted to see what would happen.”
MAAWG Chair Michael O’Reirdan stated as a result, “Consumers shouldn’t be afraid to use email, but they need to be computer smart and learn how to avoid these problems.”

Ferris Research Principal David Ferris also stated, “According to the MAAWG findings, about one in six people are prepared to make an effort to report spam and the industry should find more ways to tap into this potential.”

Educating people about spam can, of course, save them (and/or the IT department and their company) a lot of money and trouble. Then, in the long term, if people respond to spam less often, spammers will have less of an incentive to continue bombarding the public with emails.

* SPAM is a registered trademark of Hormel Foods Corporation.