Spam for the Holidays

We’re in the midst of the money-making season for merchants of all stripes. Evidently, the purveyors of Viagra and penis enlargements are no exception. E-mail filtering service providers have noticed an increase in the already titanic spate of spam.

Unsolicited commercial e-mail volume has increased dramatically this year, according to Vircom, from 45 percent of total traffic at the beginning of the year to from 65 to 70 percent of the total now. Vircom marketing manager Francois Bourdeau expects a 45 percent increase this season in spam that’s directly related to the holidays.

Just like every other marketer, “Spammers are anticipating higher than average response rates for the holidays, because as the holidays near, people are busier, they have
less time to shop, so online offers look inviting,” Bourdeau says. “Spam isn’t all Viagra, porn and university degrees. In the mix, you find spam specific for the time of year, and these are the ones that will catch a higher percentage of e-mail users.”

MailFrontier says spammers took their cue from traditional retailers by launching their holiday onslaught right after Halloween. The company says it measured an average increase of 25 percent in the spew, with predictable spikes that mirror years before. For example, spam decreases on the weekends, then increases right before and right after a holiday. With turkey day behind us, the company expected a spike today.

While it may seem to overburdened recipients that spam is generic and random, spam fighters do see a holiday shopping theme. Vircom has seen an increase in high-tech gizmos being touted as presents, while Audiotrieve says spam for radio-controlled mini cars tops its list of uninvited holiday gift promos.

And it seems the always technology-challenged federal government has gotten in the act, according to Roger Matus, CEO of Audiotrieve. Matus said his company is seeing, for the first time, electronic junk mail from the post office hyping its Web-based postage sales center.

The past few days have also seen an increase in lottery spam, the type that says, “You are a winner!” as it deposits a virus executable in your inbox, according to Audiotrieve. Vircom saw a rise in low-cost mortgages, as consumers think about paying off their credit card bills.

But the new year will bring little relief. In January, Vircom’s Bourdeau expects a dramatic increase in diet pills and weight loss products, as consumers contemplate what the holidays have done to their waistlines.

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