20 spam statistics that shed light on the dark side of your inbox

Spam statistics - Featured image

Did you check your spam folder lately? It’s like walking into a giant shopping mall where everyone wants you to buy their products, hire their services, or marry a Nigerian prince. Thousands upon thousands of emails, all encompassed under a common denominator. Spam.

Key spam statistics

  • 45% of all emails are spam.
  • Americans admit to losing more than $70,000 to Nigerian Prince scams in 2019.
  • Scams and fraud comprise only 2.5% of all spam email; however, phishing statistics indicate that identity theft makes up 73% of this figure.
  • Email spam costs businesses $20.5 billion every year.
  • 80% of all spam in North America and Europe is sent by the same 100 spam gangs.

1. The average number of legitimate email messages sent over the internet each day: 69.32 billion.

(Talos Intelligence)

Spam messages are clogging the internet, that much is sure. For a sense of scale, let’s pause for a moment to appreciate the number of legitimate emails that reach their destinations every day. While this figure varies from day to day and month to month, global email traffic remains one of the busiest communication channels in the world.


2. 45% of all emails are spam.

(Spamlaws)

This translates into more than 14.5 billion messages globally per day. While this figure is the general consensus, there are some spam traffic statistics that suggest as many as 73% of all emails are unwanted promotions for products and services.


3. Advertising makes up 36% of all world spam content.

(Spamlaws)

The most common spam emails are advertising messages. Want to buy new clothes? How about some aftershave? In some cases, these commercials do have a purpose, and with or without spam testing, many get to your inbox. Sometimes their presence can be interpreted as disrespectful and annoying, however, as people generally don’t like to see their email databases swarmed by hundreds of email messages advertising elixirs of youth and restaurant chains.


4.  Adult-related content is the second-biggest spam category, accounting for roughly 31.7% of all spam messages.

(Spamlaws)

The internet is swarming with pornographic content, and all phishing stats agree that is where most of its malware lurks. This is dangerous spam in its purest form. According to statistics, dating site spam is relentless – and profitable for spammers.


5. 26.5% of all unwanted emails are related to financial matters, the third-biggest spam email category.

(Spamlaws)

Financial news, software commercials, and services take third place among top spammers of the world. The category makes up more than a quarter of all sent spam, so be on the lookout for bogus financial messages.


6. For every 12,500,000 emails sent, spammers receive one reply.

(TechRadar)

And that’s one too many. The logic behind every email spammer’s operation is to flood the web with countless emails. Why not? The cost of spam is basically zero. One response makes the whole campaign worthwhile.


7. Scams and fraud account for about 2.5% of all spam emails. Phishing statistics indicate that identity theft is the goal of 73% of those.

(Spamlaws)

Most spam traffic isn’t fraud. It’s mostly ads and promotions for stuff you once looked up when you were bored or clicked on accidentally while shopping for something else.

Identity theft is the most common trick in the book, and a costly one. Learn to recognize the difference between a benign commercial and bait that’s intended to lure you into a trap.


8. Spam email sites earn senders around $7,000 per day.

(GroupMail)

Bulk-mailing spam is a job for specialists – third-party companies that send emails on behalf of the product or service that is being advertised. The sender gets paid simply for sending messages, regardless of whether recipients buy any of the advertised products.


9. Email spam costs businesses a whopping $20.5 billion every year.

(Radicati Group, Nucleus Research)

This eye-catching figure from 2012 includes both the decreased productivity and that technical expenses that companies incur due to spam. According to Nucleus Research, the average loss per employee was about $1,934 per year.

Spam statistics like this one show how vast the global spam operation actually is. If it continues to grow at this rate, estimates suggest that damage might rise to a staggering $257 billion within a few years.


10. More spam emails originate in China than in any other country.

(Spamhaus)

Spamhaus maintains a list of originating URLs and internet addresses for scammers, providing the list to internet service providers who can block spam before it gets to users. The current count of Chinese entries on the blocklist is 3,069. The United States is in second place with 2,649 entries.

Some of the worst spam sites hail from China, where hackers craft some of the most prolific spambots in the world, scripts capable of sending fake and malicious emails in overwhelming volumes.


11. The United States is home to 7 of the world’s top 10 spammers.

(Spamhaus)

Among the most persistent spam companies in the world:

  • Blaze Media Solutions
  • PredictLabs
  • Sphere Digital
  • RR Media
  • Cyber World Internet Services
  • e-Insites
  • Kobeni Solutions

They are all based in the United States, and together they are responsible for distributing tens of millions of spam emails per day.


12. The number one spam operation is based in Ukraine

(Spamhaus)

A fake company called Canadian Pharmacy is probably the largest spam mail operation in the world – and one of the longest-running as well. Established sometime around 2009, the company uses botnet techniques to spam the world, sending tens of millions of ads for phony pharmaceuticals every day. Although the headquarters remains a mystery, it is most likely in Ukraine.


13. 80% of all spam in North America and Europe is sent by the same 100 spam gangs.

(Spamhaus)

The spam industry is essentially unregulated. As Marx could have predicted, power is concentrated in relatively few hands as the market marches toward monopoly. According to internet spam statistics, there are approximately 100 gangs that run the business in Europe and North America. These gangs employ 200 to 300 individuals in total and they are responsible for the bulk of the world’s spam email distribution.


14. As many as 3 out of 4 companies fell victim to phishing scams in 2016.

(Proofpoint, Symantec)

Scams and fraud make up only 2.5% of all spam emails; however, identity theft makes up 76% of those emails. This figure dates from 2016, and the percentage of companies affected has probably increased. One of the leading cybersecurity companies in the world, Symantec, believes that these rates are going up catastrophically fast.

Despite growing awareness that spam is a serious, costly issue for businesses, 76% of companies report falling victim to recent phishing attacks. As Symantec reports, these rates are only increasing with time, – so it’s crucial that businesses be vigilant in protecting themselves against malware, spam, and known phishing lures.


15. Apple IDs are the most popular targets of phishing emails, accounting for 25% of all phishing scams.

(Proofpoint)

While the myth still lingers that hackers like to target VIPs and people of great wealth, leaving us mere mortals safe from harm, the facts say otherwise. According to a recent Apple email phishing report, about a quarter of all phishing scams are made to target Apple IDs. Spam scams are also directed toward acquiring Microsoft Outlook passwords (17%) and Google Drive credentials (12.9%).


16. USAA (12.4%), PayPal (10.6%), Adobe (5.8%), and Dropbox (4.8%) also rank high on the list of popular email phishing targets.

(Proofpoint)

Spam trends indicate that scammers are out to get whatever password they can get their hands on. With more and more people handling their finances online, malware-infused spam emails have become more common than ever. PayPal attracts 10.6% of spam messages, while Adobe and Dropbox account for 5.8% and 4.8%.

Another example is Fortune 500 companies like USAA. The company’s logo has been misused in lots of emails that are actually malware-laden malicious spam.


17. Fake invoices are used in 26% of phishing scams.

(Symantec)

Many common spam emails use fake invoices to trick victims into providing data. More than a quarter of 2016’s spam campaigns used this method, suggesting that businesses are particularly vulnerable and lucrative targets. In addition to invoices, malware often disguises itself in attachments (13%) and scans (12%).


18. As many as 6% of spam scams use fax machines.

(Symantec)

Spam or phishing scams come in many forms. Fax machine phishing scams work on the same principle as emailed phishing attacks. While this mode of defrauding companies has existed since the heyday of fax machines in the 1990s, it remains present to this day – with a large number of successful cases.


19. More than 99% of attacks require human interaction to succeed, resulting in malware installation, wire fraud, unwitting data disclosures, and more.

(Help Net Security, Proofpoint)

As any anti-phisher website will tell you, it takes two to tango. Although scam emails are designed to trick you into cooperation, it is still your responsibility to recognize their intent. Think twice when enabling a macro, opening a file, following a link, or opening a document. Your paranoia could well save you and your company a boatload of inconvenience and cost.


20. Americans lost at least $703,000 to Nigerian Prince scams in 2019.

(ADT, CNBC)

It’s the oldest trick in the book, but the Nigerian Prince scam still makes tons of money for old-fashioned scammers. The sting is quite simple: You receive an email suggesting you send money upfront, with some out-of-this-world justification that often involves a member of the fictional Nigerian royalty. According to social engineering spam email statistics, the Nigerian style emails cost their victims in the US an average of $2,133 per person affected, over the past three years. Spam trends might change, but this evergreen scam remains popular as ever on the fringes of the web.

FAQ

What percentage of email is spam 2018?

Spam folder statistics suggest that 85% of marketing emails bypass spam filters and arrive in users’ inboxes. Although most email users prefer that mail related to advertising be sent directly to spam, the messages are generally harmless – and legitimate means of doing business.

What percentage of email traffic is spam?

Spam accounts for 45.3% of the total email traffic worldwide. Spam tests conducted by Trustwave Secure Email Gateway suggest that the number actually represents a decrease compared to 2016, when 59.8% of traffic was spam.

How much spam is sent daily?

About 14.5 billion email spam messages get distributed each day. That’s about 45% of the world’s daily email traffic.

What companies send the most spam?

The top three companies flooding the net with marketing emails are StumbleUpon, Live Nation, and Goodreads. Honorable mention awards go to other big companies known to flood the internet with spam: Groupon, Old Navy, Bed Bath & Beyond, and Target.

Why is spam dangerous?

Malware, identity theft, scams, phishing – you name it. While most spam is just annoying and time-consuming, about 2.5% of it can do some serious damage.

The worst spam emails try to trick you into disclosing bank details, allowing scammers to withdraw money or steal your identity. Phishing attacks statistics suggest that as much as 73% of malware-infected spam mail is intended for identity theft.

Is it illegal to spam email?

Unsolicited email is illegal. However, if you leave your address on a mailing list, notifications you receive may no longer qualify as spam. It’s very easy to get added to a spamming list, as people tend to leave their addresses on various sign-up services, newsletters, etc.

Why is spam called spam?

Spam luncheon meat was introduced in 1937 by Hormel Foods. There are at least two stories that explain how Spam meat became synonymous with the output of junk email generators.

The first theory relies on the untrue but widely held assumption that Spam uses some sort of substitute for meat, rather than the real deal. Fake meat, fake messages – spam.

However, another theory claims the name comes from a 1970 Monty Python’s Flying Circus sketch in which a group of customers in a Spam-themed restaurant yell and sing about Spam, eventually drowning out all other conversations – just as unfiltered spam could drown out all the legitimate email in your inbox.

Sources