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FAQ: Spam

What kind of spam is there? Out of curiosity, I kept all the spam I received in a 24-hour period. I then sorted out the 479 spam emails by categories and used a spreadsheet to create a graph and table to see if there were any trends or patterns.

1: The Graph

The spam collected in a 24-hour period on the 22nd of November, 2003.

2: The Table

Type

Number

Percent

Notes

Penis Enlargment

249

52%

Viagra and so on

Pornography

48

10%

Hot housewives

Pharmaceuticals

48

10%

Pharmaceuticals without a prescription

Credit Cards / Debts

39

8%

Erase debt or new credit cards

Diet and Weight Loss

25

5%

Lose weight

Products

13

3%

Actual products

Steal Cable Services

8

2%

How to unlock cable services

Get-Rich-Quick

8

2%

Money scams

Software

8

2%

Software, incl. pirate software

Colonic Cleansers

5

1%

Next, please

Russian Spam

5

1%

Spam in Russian text

Anti-spam

4

1%

Offers to block spam

Nigeria Bank Scam

4

1%

Hello, I am the son of...

Real Estate for sale

3

1%

Buy property

Unknown

3

1%

No content or unknown languages

Breathanalyser

2

0.4%

Fool the cops

Gambling

2

0.4%

Casinos

Car Mileage Improvement

1

0.2%

A real product

Chinese Spam

1

0.2%

In Chinese language

Diplomas

1

0.2%

Cheap diploma

Hotels

1

0.2%

Hotel offers

Search Engines Services

1

0.2%

Get high ranking in Google

Total

479

100%

(May not equal 100% due to rounding.)

3: Comments

I had thought that sex spam was the most common stuff. But it turns out that from 479 spam, over 50% was for Viagra. 249 offers in 24 hours for Viagra. Either there really exists a market for this and spammers are making lots of sales, or spammers are chasing the same market in some sort of flock mentality.

Sex spam was only 10% and it was matched exactly by pharmaceuticals-without-prescription, also 10%.

I thought the sex spam was the most common, probably because it is hard to ignore. In contrast, one just deletes pharmaceuticals spam without really noticing it. I really hadn't expected the overwhelming amount of Viagra spam.

What is remarkable is that there is very few spam that actually sell a real product. I'm assuming the hotel offer was real. The real estate offer also looks real. There were seven spam for the same product: a radio-controlled toy car. Most of the software offers were pirate software, so that could be a scam. This means that legitimate companies are not using spam at all. Even the 250 Viagra offers are all from spammers; none of these emails came from legitimate pharmacies.

Another interesting item was the spam in Russian and Chinese. If Russians think anyone else on the planet reads Russian, no wonder their economy is in such trouble.

The top three categories (penis, porn, and pills) account for 80% of spam. In a way, these are basically the same: Viagra is a pill for sex. Number 4, credit cards, is probably for those who've wrecked their credit on the first three items.

479 spam in 24 hours is annoying. All of these had to be downloaded in order to get my email. I got only 12 real emails (2.4%).

Darwin was right: Evolution happens. Spammers are evolving from slugs into tapeworms. They no longer use text. By now, so many filters have viagra, v!agra, vlagra, and similar, so spammers now put the entire message as a image, without text, so there's nothing to filter. The most common subject header is a simple "hi", which is often used by legitimate personal email, so that is hard to filter out.

4: How to block spam

Here's tips on how to set up your Spam Filters in Microsoft Outlook.


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