The psychology of spamming

Terry Zink Microsoft

Aside: This paper fuses statistics, psychology, economics, editorial and entertainment. Everything will be presented using a blended mixture of these techniques.

We all know that spamming, malware, and other abusive techniques on the Internet are profitable to the people behind them. But why are they profitable? Why are people naturally skeptical about scams when they hear about them from second-hand or third-hand sources, but still fall for them when they are presented to us in person? Why is there an emotional disconnect between what we say we will do, and what we actually do?

This paper will examine the psychological aspects of spam:

  • The role that our emotions play when evaluating an offer and how spammers will prey on experiences common to the general human experience.
  • The role that economics plays to the spammer and how the reality of the cost of spam filtering impacts them.
  • The role that statistics play - 99% is a pretty good value to shoot for in terms of effectiveness until the scale of that remaining 1% is multiplied by billions.

When it comes to scams, we all know that if it is too good to be true, it probably is - unless this time, it's different. That goal of this paper is to examine why some of us really believe that perhaps this time it really is different, and how spammers and phishers exploit it.


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