Does spam pay?

Late last month, US authorities arrested an email spammer nicknamed ‘The Spam King’ and charged him with sending millions of junk emails. According to a news article posted on the BBC News website, the spammer, called Robert Soloway, was arrested in Seattle and charged with mail fraud, identity theft and money laundering. Part of the prosecutors’ efforts to charge Mr Soloway include trying to seize the $773,000 (£391,000) that Mr Soloway is said to have made from his spamming efforts.

That got me to thinking. Somebody must be getting rich off spam – why else would people spam? So, if Robert Soloway can make three quarters of a million dollars spamming people, who else is making money from spam? And how?

Do you know the spam that offers advice on which stocks to buy? According to a study by Laura Frieder and Jonathan Zittrain:

Volume of trading responds positively and significantly to heavy touting. For a stock that is touted at some point during our sample period, the probability of it being the most actively traded stock in our sample jumps from 4% on a day when there is no touting activity to 70% on a day when there is touting activity.

The spammers (who had bought large quanities of the touted stock) then sell when the stock price rises artificially, leaving those who bought the stock holding worthless shares.

Then there is the ‘Cajun spammer’, Ron Scelson, who claimed to send millions of ‘legitimate’ spams, advertising insurance, holidays and more. Back in May 2003, Ron testified in from of the US Senate about his business practices. In his testimony, Scelson claimed that his emailing form of direct mailing was less offensive and more environmentally friendly junk mail through the post. He said that about 1% to 2% of recipients positively respond to the adverts, converting those unsolicited emails into sales for Scelson’s clients. In his heyday, Ron was making thousands of dollars sending millions of advertising emails on behalf of his clients.

There are a lot of people making a large amount of money on spam, which is pathetic. Why do these people feel it’s okay to waste our time and our energy with their rubbish? Don’t get me started on that topic …