Most email spam is from the same perpetrators
According to Spamhaus.org, as much as 80% of spam received by Internet users in North America and Europe can be traced to fewer than 100 spammers. Spamhaus maintains the Register of Known Spam Operations (ROKSO), a database that collates information and evidence on known professional spam operations.
These spammers operate illegally and move from network to network and nation to nation seeking out Internet Service Providers (ISPs) with lax security. ROSKO says they are a “three strikes” register, listing only spammers who have been kicked off of at least three ISPs.
So how does email spam work?
Generally speaking, spammers obtain email addresses from websites and through various means, then deliver spam emails to those addresses attempting to trick email filters, and look legitimate (like fake failure notices). Recipients that are tricked may either click a link that results in a chain of events wherein their email account begins sending out spam links to everyone in their contacts list, their computer is infected with a virus, or they are sent to a website that looks like it is selling legitimate goods, but are not (hence collecting credit card numbers and the like).
How do they make money? Spammers make ad revenue from clicks to pages, or for buying/selling email addresses, or from scamming people into giving them money for non-existent goods or charities. In a study by multiple universities, it was uncovered that 95 percent of revenues email spam perpetrators make is cleared through only three banks.
Not only are email spam operations few in number, the banks clearing their money are fewer.
How to overcome email spam on your own
First and foremost, people should use discretion when giving out their email address and be guarded with it, especially on unknown websites.
Most importantly, avoid clicking any links in any emails when at all possible, unless you know for sure it is from someone you know and trust, and are certain it is not a spam email sent from their account after being hijacked – if you aren’t sure if the link is legitimate, verify by sending a separate email to the person asking if they just emailed you a link.
You should never respond to a spam email, even if it tells you “reply to unsubscribe,” particularly if you’re being sold Viagra or casino chips, or other common targeted spam keywords we’ve all come to know and hate.
Report email spam which is a built in feature of some email services, like Gmail. Alternatively, to take it a step further, forwarding what you believe to be spam to “firstname.lastname@example.org” will get the email into the hands of the federal authorities (the Federal Trade Commission) who add them to a database used to prosecute those who are scamming or practicing deceptive advertising methods. About.com offers several more tips and tricks for fighting email spam.
Although it feels like this problem should have been eradicated by now, it simply is not, so safeguard your email account, especially if you use it for work. These spammers may be few in number, and while the federal government is pursuing their illegal acts, they are vicious in their practices, so the best weapon is awareness.