At his or her simplest form, a spammer will send out unsolicited e-mail to people in the hope of making a sale to them. There is significantly more to it than that however– spammers also buy, sell and trade e-mail addresses. Most spammers (those who do it illegally, as compared with those sending out legal bulk e-mails) are also involved in organized crime and scams intended to part people from their money.

Trojan Horses to Capture Computers
Illegal spammers also will often  try to “capture “computers by sending out a Trojan horse together with the e-mail. These Trojan horses will then allow them to take control of the computer and use it to send out even more spam, with no cost to the spammer whatsoever. They may also try to steal people’s credit identity by using a key logger to grab credit card numbers and bank passwords.
Modern Spammers
These days, spammers have moved into other kinds of spam. Spammers now target online forums, blog and newspaper commentaries, YouTube comments and pretty much anywhere they can get their messages out. Another popular, non Internet method for spammers is to send out text messages to cellular phones, though this is more expensive so it is a lot less likely to occur.
Keyword Spamming
Another kind of spammer doesn’t send out e-mails to people. Instead, they write articles where they repeat keywords over and over again in an effort to game Google and other search engines so that they can reach the top of the rankings. This method of SEO (Search Engine Optimization) is well known and Google now deliberately “punishes” web sites that try to use it by pushing them down in the rankings.
Are They Successful?
Ultimately, spam messages are not particularly successful, however they’re cheap to make and send out. Therefore, some people, particularly those who are not trying to build a business but instead are trying to run a scam operation (most legitimate business people, if they try it, quickly find it’s a waste of time and money because of negative publicity) still find it useful.
The fact that there are always a tiny number of people who still respond is why you still get offers from Nicaraguan bankers offering to share untold millions if you’ll only share your bank account number. They only need one mark in a million who doesn’t know that this is an obvious scam to make their money back and then some.
How Did Spam Get Started?
The very first commercial spam e-mail ever to be sent out was sent back in 1994. It was garishly formatted, with all CAPS LOCK and bold letters intended to grab attention. It was sent out to around 6,000 people who were members of an early UseNet user group by a pair of lawyers who offered to help them get their immigration status fixed. Never mind that most of them didn’t need such help.
Is There Legitimate Spam?
Yes and no. We don’t like to refer to it as spamming, however it is perfectly legitimate to set up an e-mail list where people can sign up to receive information about your products and services (we offer such a list in fact). However, this isn’t spam in the classic sense of the term. It’s simply good Internet marketing and we greatly prefer to make it clear this isn’t related to spammers in general.
Are There Laws Against Spam?
Absolutely. The federal government passed the Can Spam act a number of years ago which requires that all companies sending out commercial e-mails (since many people legitimately wanted commercial e-mails from some companies) offer a way to remove themselves from spam lists.
Some scammers however have used those rules to their advantage: they harvest the names and e-mail addresses of those who respond to the request for the e-mails to be stopped and sell the e-mail addresses to other spammers in an effort to make even more money.
The Future of Spam
Sadly, spam doesn’t seem likely to go away. It’s estimated that some 90% of e-mails sent out over the Internet today are spam e-mails which people don’t want. It’s no wonder then that the younger generation seems to be moving away from e-mail and instead relying on instant messaging and texting, which is harder and more expensive to send automated spam to.