Everyone Expects the Spammish RepititionJulian observes that spam scams, however ridiculously implausible they may seem to intelligent readers, must nevertheless be successful, as otherwise they would not persist. Clearly, there must be enough really gullible people out there to make the scams profitable for the perpetrators.
Now, I don’t often defend the proposition that people aren’t as stupid as you think, because so very often they turn out to be stupider. But in this case, I’m willing to offer a small bit of evidence in support of the common man’s BS detector. Y’see, it’s incredibly cheap to send mass emails – pretty darn close to zero at the margin. And that means spammers can tolerate astoundingly low response rates simply because they spam so many people. According to the “Spam Queen” interviewed in this Wall Street Journal article, some spam projects can break even with a response rate as low as 0.001% – in other words, as low as one person in 100,000. Of course, the breakeven response rate depends on how much each sucker gets soaked for, so the response rate needed to create a profit could be higher (or lower) than this one. But I’d be happy knowing only one person in a thousand is dumb enough to fall for spam scams.