Stupid users respond to spam? Survey said... (ding) 12% do!

A recent survey by MAAWG concluded that email users are stupid, because some of them sometimes "respond" to spam. In IT Blogwatch, bloggers feign shock and horror that people are a bit dim sometimes.

By Richi Jennings: your humble blogwatcher, who selected these bloggy morsels for your enjoyment. Not to mention the SQL KISS...

Jeremy Kirk beams down:

About one in six consumers have at some time acted on a spam message, affirming the economic incentive for spammers to keep churning out millions of obnoxious pitches per day, according to a new survey ... sponsored by the Messaging Anti-Abuse Working Group (MAAWG), an industrywide security think tank ... dedicated to fighting spam and malicious software


MAAWG's survey showed that nearly two-thirds of the 800 polled felt they were somewhat experienced in Internet security, a highly complex field even for those trained in it. ... And some 80% of people felt their machine would never be infected with a bot, or a piece of malicious software that can send spam, harvest data and do other harmful functions.

Dave Parrack is shocked. Shocked I tell you:

Spam email has been with us for over 30 years now. ... Surely it’s been with us long enough that no one is now fooled into responding to the offers of mail order brides or penis enlargement solutions.


These figures are truly shocking because I’d assumed that very few people were actually gullible enough to respond or even be tempted to respond to an unsolicited email from someone they didn’t know. Whereas if these figures were placed on the total population of the U.S. it would mean millions of people were really that gullible. Which is, quite frankly, pretty scary.

No wonder the amount of spam email we all receive continues to grow.

And, yes, Jacqui Cheng is horrified:

Be honest: have you ever responded to a spam e-mail? Do you know anyone who has? ... [We] can't fathom why anyone would respond to most of the messages we get. ... The answers will undoubtedly horrify you.

A full 12 percent said that they were interested in the product or service being offered—those erection drug and mail order bride ads do reach a certain market, it appears. Seventeen percent said that they made a mistake when they did so—understandable—but another 13 percent said they simply had no idea why they did it; they just did. Another six percent "wanted to see what would happen."

Victor Godinez drives the point home:

12 percent ... sounds like a huge number to me. But if it's even close to accurate, you can see why spammers keep doing what they're doing. It takes only pennies to send thousands or millions of automated messages, so even a tiny response rate is enough to turn a profit.


What's more, those 12 percent are doing more than just making foolish buying decisions. They're also opening themselves to all sorts of viruses, worms, phishing attacks and other malicious software, since many of these spam operations are run by foreign organized criminal gangs.

Chris Murphy has another IT angle:

[It] makes me wonder--do some of you respond to those unsolicited offers for “Romanian PHP, Java, ASP, & .NET Software Outsourcing” I regularly get in my e-mail box? ... [Do] IT pros trust their IT services work to companies they meet through mass e-mail solicitations. Logically I know some number must buy to justify the practice, but I just haven’t really believed it.


For some, the subject line is all you need:

Subject: website design US$6/hr

So what do you think--is my skepticism unfounded, and are these kind of mass e-mails a reasonable source for leads on IT outsourcing?

Patricio Robles finds lessons for the mainsleaze legitimate marketers:

Do what spammers do. Ask a question. Use emotional words. Get straight to the call to action. ... erring on the side of simplicity is usually a good idea.


While your product or service may not help your customers lose 20 pounds in a week, framing your email marketing messages in terms of how your products and services can benefit recipients should be the focal point. Maybe you can help them perform better or earn money by saving money.

Full disclosure: while freelancing at Ferris Research, your humble blogwatcher advised MAAWG on its report (but not on the survey itself).

So would you do it? Or have you signed Roger Ebert's Boulder Pledge? Get involved: leave a comment.

Previously in IT Blogwatch:

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Richi Jennings is an independent analyst/consultant, specializing in blogging, email, and spam. A 24 year, cross-functional IT veteran, he is also an analyst at Ferris Research. You can follow him as @richi on Twitter or richij on FriendFeed, pretend to be Richi's friend on Facebook, or just use good old email:

Copyright © 2009 IDG Communications, Inc.

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