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McKibbin’s Scribblin’s: All it takes is millions of emails?

Mike McKibbin
McKibbin’s Scribblin’s

If what “they” say is true – that everyone can expect to have at least a couple career changes in their adult lives – I’ve found mine.

It’s something totally different than writing and reporting, but man, there’s apparently TONS of money to be made doing it.

And I found my future career just by showing up at the office Tuesday morning, just like any other morning, and turning on my computer. Just like any other morning.



When I started my email program – say it with me, just like any other morning – I was greeted with something like 50 or 60 spam emails. I kid you not.

I’ve had a lot of spam before, but this day took the cake. So I started thinking: There must be some money to be made doing this, because that’s what makes the world go round, right? And if there’s no money to be made, why do it? (I’m not really that materialistic, but bear with me.)



I’ve never once responded to a spam, or clicked on a link. We’ve all heard – ad nauseam at times – that you’ll only download a computer virus and that all the senders want is your credit card number so they can drain your bank account. So why would ANYONE do what the spam said? Even if the offer is legitimate, from a company I’ve heard of, I have always said no.

Turns out, about all it takes is any ONE person to help the spammer make money. And some claim to make a heck of a living. Read on.

I found an article on the Cyberwarfare Magazine web site that cited a 2008 study. The article said it appears that even if spammers get only one answer for every 12.5 million e-mails sent (of course, there is software that automatically sends the emails. I wouldn’t want to get carpal tunnel syndrome in my wrists by hitting “send” 12.5 million times in a row), they can make big bucks.

Holy cow, right? As P.T. Barnum famously said, there’s a sucker born every minute. Apparently, that’s true if it’s only one sucker for every 12.5 million emails.

The article said a team from the International Computer Science Institute reached that conclusion in a paper they titled, “Spamalytics: An Empirical Analysis of Spam Marketing Conversion.”

Sounds very scientific, right? So it must be true.

The team set up two websites, a fake Canadian pharmacy and a postcard website. They sent 469 million spam emails, trying to convince the recipients to buy products from the fake online pharmacy.

Here’s where it gets interesting: Of 350 million spams sent over 26 days, only 28 people went to visit the purchase page of the fake website. But, according to the report:

“Under the assumption that our measurements are representative over time (an admittedly dangerous assumption when dealing with such small samples), we can extrapolate that, were it sent continuously at the same rate, … pharmaceutical spam would produce roughly $3.5 million of revenue in a year. This number could be even higher, if spam-advertised pharmacies experience repeat business. A bit less than ‘millions of dollars every day,’ but certainly a healthy enterprise.”

Where do I sign up???

Then I found more information on a site for BullGuard anti-spam and ID theft protection. It explained that if a spam recipient buys something, the spammer gets a percentage of the sale. For pharmaceuticals, the commission can be as high as 50 percent, and research has shown that the response rate can be rather high, this article claimed.

Not sure one answer for 12.5 million emails qualifies as a “rather high” response rate, but whatever…There’s even more that makes me think I’ve found my future calling:

That article said this means spammers can make a “massive” amount of money. The article said in July 2007, a retired spammer told PC World that at his peak, he pulled in $10,000 to $15,000 a week sending e-mails that promoted pills, porn and casinos.

Just so you know, by the end of the day Tuesday, I had moved 69 spam emails to my junk folder.

Talk about excited to start my new career!

Mike McKibbin is the editor of The Citizen Telegram.


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