Australian Institute of Criminology

Skip to content

Spam emails increase business productivity costs

Media Release

17 May 2005

A significant increase in the volume of spam sent across the internet in the last few years is leading to additional productivity costs for businesses, the Director of the Australian Institute of Criminology, Dr Toni Makkai said today.

Dr Makkai today released the latest report from the Australian Institute of Criminology, 'Spam: nuisance or menace, prevention or cure?' which discusses the increasing sophistication of techniques used to send unsolicited commercial email messages commonly known as spam.

Spam is an electronic version of the direct junk mail placed in domestic and business post and/or newspapers and magazines on a daily basis, but the volume is far greater and the avoidance of spam more difficult.

"The number of spam emails being sent is increasing rapidly", Dr Makkai said. "In June 2003, 49 per cent of filtered email messages were spam, this number had increased to 67 per cent by December 2004".

Spam is email sent to a large number of people who do not request it, detailing products or services in which they may have no interest and is sent by people who disguise their identity and who are difficult, if not impossible to locate.

Spam is a more pervasive form of direct marketing and works on the premise that, although the vast number of recipients will reject it, a minority will read and respond to it. An estimated 60 per cent of spam comes from the United States.

Spam is not universally regarded as a problem. In a study from the United States, two-thirds of the respondents did not consider email to be spam if it originated from a sender with whom they had previously conducted business.

The same study found that 59 per cent of the respondents found spam 'annoying but not a big problem', 27 per cent found it to be a 'big problem' and 14 per cent believed it to be 'no problem at all'.

Criminals exploit the vulnerability of some email users by developing the art of 'phishing'. This is a process which involves official-looking trick emails typically stating that they come from banks and attempt to trick the user into clicking onto a fraudulent website.

Strategies to prevent spam need to involve governments, law enforcement, internet service providers, corporations and consumers. At the present time, there is no universal approach for dealing with spam.