Where Has All the Viagra Spam Gone?

Same for Nigerians seeking to transfer millions of dollars to me (if I give them my bank account number).

I haven’t gotten one of these in a year, after often getting several a day. I assume that the spammers realized that the return per period of time — the price of the activity — was less than its marginal cost: the opportunity cost of their time. They have shut down the business and moved to other activities that might yield higher returns.

Economists proposed taxes on mass emailing, but the market seems to have solved the problem. Spam still exists, though; the latest is the email saying I’m the nearest surviving relative of XX [pick some first name] Hamermesh, and if I would just send my bank details to a particular large South African bank, they will wire my inheritance.


Steve

A quick review of my Gmail automated spam folder reveals that there are still plenty of people who want to sell me Viagra (no less than eight of the first 20 messages). Perhaps the spammers are still producing the e-mails, but our filters are getting better at screening them?

zach

maybe your spam filters are just getting better.

JD Thomas

Daniel, you really should give credit where credit is due and thank your mail admins and others who are fighting to keep the spam out of your inbox.

All that spam, especially the spam for little blue pills, is all still, out there. This screenshot shows the two I got in under an hour earlier today.

http://www.twitpic.com/uiq0v/full

If possible, ask your mail admin if you can get a list of Subjects for mail that has been filters. You may be surprised. Or just ask your readers to peruse the spam folder in any active Google Gmail account.

Filtering, over the last year, has finally made it possible for people like you to feel the problem has disappeared and that is a great thing; however, we mail administrators wouldn't mind having out role in that acknowledged.

Spencer

The more likely solution is that your e-mail provider has more effective filters. There is still plenty of Viagra and Nigerian 411 spam.

AJ

Ouch, is this how research is done these days?

As all the other comments have mentioned, the spam is still flowing (at the same rate if not more) only it's your filters that are better.

Your hypothesis is simply incorrect.

Noah

I haven't seen much Viagra stuff but I get a scam or two a day in my spam filters on gmail.

Noah

ps: the scam you're getting (last surviving daughter of...) - that is the same Nigerian scam, just a new story.

Paul Clapham

I'm still getting the odd Nigerian 419 spam, only not from Nigerians any more. The latest one I got claimed to be from somebody in the US Army who found a large amount of cash in a garbage can when they were rousting out Saddam Hussein and now he wants me to help him deal with it.

Robert

May be time to do some research before posting.

There are plenty of those hitting my server every hour... spam filters are just getting more clever and just filtering them out better.

Considering they mostly use botnets and infected servers, costs are pretty low to send out a few billion emails. Even those costs are likely covered by stolen credit cards.

Mike

This morning, the first viagra spam to make it through the filter in a very long time hit. A quick look at my spam folder shows viagra in the top spot, followed by "male enhancement" and weight loss.

Mike

The credit should go to spam filters. Talk to the administrators of your email system - I'm sure they can get you a report. My guess is that over 90% of all email is removed by the spam filters. And considering the small amount of false-positives (legit email getting blocked as spam) I'd say these filters are working quite well.

jim

I get plenty of this stuff. Filter in gmail takes care of most of it.

Thom

Just checked my gmail spam folder and am getting plenty of these. "A fabulous instrument will give you a fabulous reputation" says one of them. Good to know.

Tiffany

7 Viagra offers since midnight last night, along with a few other prescription drug possibilities. gmail automatically deletes items from your spam folder after 30 days and mine currently contains 492 items--that's an average of upwards of 16 per day, not counting those items that slip through the filter.

David

My spammers must have a lower opportunity cost of their time than your spammers, as I have no shortage of bank presidents, fabuloulsy rich widows, and foreign dignitaries offering me millions of dollars just to hold onto their money for them for a few weeks.

karim kanji

I think Daniel is saying Spam still exists but that the subject matter has changed. i already got my "operation' and closed the deal with my 3rd cousin in Nigeria. That's the reason I thought I wasn't getting anymore spam...

;)

Ian Kemmish

All of the major mail filtering companies (Messagelabs for example) publish daily statistics and monthly intelligence reports about spam, viruses, other malware and what this month's favoured delivery method is. If you're going to write an article about whether spam is increasing, decreasing, or remaining about the same, you really do have an obligation to your employer (and audience) to at least glance at well-known and freely available sources of information about your subject, don't you think?

Jim

I think the filters also get better every time I click on the "Report Spam" button. We, the human readers, are the best ones to read and interpret spam. As we report it, service providers, such as gmail, can start to identify the traits that identify it as spam, and start to manage it as a whole.

I'm surprise by how few legit emails get caught by the spam filters.

keith

As an academic economist, I expect you are familiar with the Bayesian branch of statistics. Spam filters are generally a real-life implementation of Bayes' theorem.

Emily

I get no spam in my Gmail account (at least not in my inbox), but am bombarded with Viagra offers everyday through my work account. I would say the spam filters at work catch about two-thirds of the junk, but that remaining third is very stubborn.