Spam - Why Do I Get Spam?

Roger DeReu

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First, it helps to know a little background about SPAM to understand why it even exists.

I'm always being asked why people spam. “What do these people get out of it?" is what everyone wants to know. Well, it's just like those TV commercials that you can't stand. Why do they keep replaying them? Certainly no one actually calls in and buys from that hokey commercial do they?

As strange as it may seem, they do. In fact, several legendary marketing people have assured me that if I see any kind of TV ad, mailing, or spam over and over it's a guarantee that it's making its owners big money.

Now when it comes to spam it's a little harder to believe, but ABC's 20/20 news magazine profiled those Nigerian email scams and showed us real people (even Doctor's) swindled out of thousands of dollars; all hoping for a big score that they knew was too good to be true.

Greed got the best of them

A few people actually believe the scam and their tender heart makes them want to help - so they send money. The rest, I'm afraid, were just hoping for a big score. They knew better, but sent their money in anyway. And that's what fuels the spammers on.

What about selling products with SPAM?

Testimony during the trial of one spammer showed that millions of spams were sent per day, netting around a half million dollars a month after bandwidth charges, despite the fact that only 1 in 30,000 recipients purchased anything. One in 30,000. That's 0.0000333%. Spammers use the law of large numbers to make it work, even at such a low response rate.

Send enough emails and you find customers; and purchase, they do. And with that kind of money at stake, it's not hard to see why spammers are outstripping the ability of the good guys & gals to stop them.

Another favorite of spammers is promoting penny stocks. Spammers will buy these thinly traded, inexpensive stocks - which they then promote in millions of spam emails. The resulting jump in price can make up to 10 percent returns in a single day, or more in some cases. The suckers who buy the touted stocks typically lose money by holding on too long. The runup, if successful, may not last more than a day. Repeat that process over many weeks and you're talking real profits.

Here again, the spammers are playing on greed.

Explains a lot, doesn't it?

So, Why do I get SPAM?

Plain and simple, you get spam because spammers got your email address. Sometimes they just use computer programs to generate addresses and a small percentage turn out to be valid. If you open it, or worse, reply to it - even to tell them to take you off the list - they know your address is real.

One thing you can figure on, though, is that every possible address at the larger email providers will get spammed at some point, just from this type of dictionary, or random character attack. It costs spammers almost nothing to do this.

But more often, you, or someone you trusted with your email address, did not take adequate steps to protect that address.

Roger DeReu has been working with PC's, as a programmer, IT specialist and independent consultant, since 1984. He currently consults primarily with small and medium sized businesses in the Midwest. He is a Microsoft Certified Professional and Small Business Specialist. was originally created to be a free resource for the employees of his clients to have access to his knowledge for benefit of their home PC's.

Sign up for his free weekly e-zine, Tip-Of-The-Week, at


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