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Commentary: Spammers--are they stupid or are we?

Why is all spam so obviously about stuff no rational human would buy? Why are all spammers so clearly creeps with deeply dodgy goods to sell? And is there any chance that you would actually be able to sell anything legitimate by spamming people?

Why is all spam so obviously about stuff no rational human would buy? Why are all spammers so clearly creeps with deeply dodgy goods to sell? And is there any chance that you would actually be able to sell anything legitimate by spamming people? Or would they assume that you were necessarily a crook, just because you were sending spam?

UNITED KINGDOM (ZDNet UK)-- I decided to analyze the contents of my bulging inbox. We'll leave out the regular spam messages offering you spam software with which to spam other people. My spam filters have caught most of those, these days, but some still get through, to my amazement. "You managed to resist when we offered you this package for $999; you didn't buy when we offered it for $445; can you avoid it at a bargain $99, just for this month?"

Yes, easily. And equally easy, is resisting the next most common form of spam.

There's no delicate way of putting it: I would guess that well over half of the spam I get is either from people selling illegal medications--some of which might give me an erection--or selling online pictures which would kill it stone dead even if I had one.

Sorry if that upsets your sensibilities, but surely, most of the images are certainly not erotic. I've looked.

But the rest are hilarious!

My favourite was one from a "psychic" who wanted to tell me my future. It came, naturally, through my account with mail.com which is surely the worst I know at letting spam through after MSN. It was addressed to "hjklf@mail.com."

I can sort of understand that. You are using a name-generator, if you send mail to hjklf, and it's just generating thousands and thousands of names. Fair enough. But surely, if you are claiming to be clairvoyant, you don't address the text of the spam to "Hello, Hjklf!--I can see great things in your future!" unless you're just unusually dim, even by psychic standards?

"Pay off all your debt!"--that's the oldest con in the world, surely? Borrow money in order to pay back other creditors? How stupid would you have to be? Apparently there's still one being born every minute.

Then there's the "start your own business--work for me" offer, which seems to be slightly less fashionable as spam these days. Pyramid selling schemes, like gambling ideas, appeal to the poor and desperate.

Of course, gambling offers are starting to fill the spam-basket too. I get three or four "lottery" offers a week, plus the occasional offer of gambling credit. I can't believe anybody who was stupid enough to take up such an offer from an unknown source, would have a valid credit card. So that's all OK; a punter with a fake credit card, spending non-existent money with a bookie who isn't going to honour the wins, right? Poetic justice.

Another reason, perhaps, that the people who send spam just feel like crooks, is that most viruses are sent that way. When you get mail from someone you've never heard of, saying "Check this out!" would you?

Apparently, yes. Every time there's a new visual basic script virus, thousands of people get caught.

And that's the trouble, really, isn't it. The problem with spammers isn't that they are crooks, unpleasant people or idiots who couldn't get a life even if the life shop was doing a special offer with cash-back. The problem with spammers is that there are people out there, who are even more stupid and idiotic, and will actually send money to these creeps.

Until society has had access to the Web for long enough that everybody knows what sort of person sells by mass e-mailings, it will still pay the typical low-life spammer to fire up their PC and send another million unsolicited e-mails.

We get spam, because we, the users of the world, deserve it.