The concept of spam is familiar to all of us. And sadly, we’re not talking about Monty Python's skit but cybersecurity. Not only is spam irritating, but it poses a genuine threat, especially since it’s very much unregulated. Any device connected to the web is an easy target for malware through spam, and it doesn’t even stop there. That’s why we prepared these essential spam statistics that will hopefully help keep your life spam-free this year and beyond.
Spam Statistics (Editor’s Choice)
- 94% of malware is delivered via email.
- Gmail protection service blocks over 100 million phishing emails daily.
- Russia is the largest source of spam.
- An extreme group of circa 100 spam gangs generates up to 80% of all Internet spam.
- Argentina was the first country to implement an anti-spam law in 2000.
- In March 1999, the Melissa virus was the first one to spread via email.
- 98.3% of spam content on LinkedIn was taken down by its automated defenses.
General Statistics About Spam
1. Spam is named after canned luncheon meat (Spiced/Shoulder Pork Ham).
Made by Hormel Foods back in 1937, Spam has since become a metaphor. There are two reasons the name stuck as a description of unsolicited email messages. First, there is the Spam cans size, as they take up a lot of space in a store. Then, there’s Monty Python’s skit, where a couple orders breakfast. You don’t need to guess twice which ingredient is found in every dish. The woman doesn’t want Spam, but she has no choice.
(Today I Found Out)
2. There are 5 main categories of spam.
Spam trends show these categories all have the same purpose. The division relates to the way spam reaches you. Said categories are:
- Email spam
- SEO spam
- Content spam
- Link spam
- Social networking spam
- Mobile spam
- Messaging spam.
Spammers will try to reach your inbox via every means of communication. Some types are harmless, often used as spam advertising. Others, however, can be dangerous, especially those with links to unsafe web pages. They can infiltrate your device and either steal relevant information or insert malware.
3. Email spam statistics reveal 47.3% of all emails in 2020 were spam.
A high increase in spam emails, at over 47%, happened in 2020. That translates to nearly half of all unsolicited email messages being unsolicited email messages. Cybercriminals will exploit the latest trends and use them as bait, from one-time offers and adult content to medical miracles and inheritance scams. The rates are much lower compared to 2012, which recorded a peak annual spam rate of 69%.
4. 94% of malware is delivered via email.
An investigation of malware concluded that a whopping 94% used email as a delivery method. These statistics about email spam show just how dangerous it can be to engage in such instances. The most common spam emails include an attachment, with 45% of malware files being Office doc files. At 26%, Windows apps were second, as another type of malware delivery through spam mail.
5. The estimated value of the antivirus software market is $3.6 billion.
Besides malware, an increase in spam email can cause identity theft, financial damage, phishing, and other scams. For individuals, common sense and antivirus are more than enough. But businesses are at a higher stake, and the costs of security failure are much greater, which is why plenty turn to spam filtering companies.
(360 Research Reports)
6. Statistics about email spam show that ads and chain letters are the most common spam types.
Classification of campaigns sent via email points to seven distinct categories. Besides spam email accounts sending ads and chain letters, other categories include:
- Money scams
- Malware warnings
- Adult content.
7. Gmail protection service blocks over 100 million phishing emails daily.
In April 2020, Google statistics about spam revealed an enormous increase in spam emails. The company explained the volume of spam is increasing because the attackers were using the pandemic as the perfect opportunity. Phishing is one of the oldest forms of cyber attack via email, where the sender tricks the recipient into believing they are a trusted entity. Google has successfully blocked 99.9% of spam email, including phishing. In one critical week, there were 18 million daily malware and phishing emails and 240 million additional COVID-19-related spam emails.
(Google Cloud Blog)
8. In the US, you can report a spam SMS by forwarding it to the number that spells SPAM (7726).
People are more likely to respond to SMS than a call from an unknown number. As many companies are legitimately using this to their advantage, scammers have found their way in as well. The latest SMS spam statistics show some recent frauds are called smishing, as a variation of phishing. In the US, top spammers will often present themselves as Social Security, IRS, Walmart, Wells Fargo, and FedEx. 2020 brought about an abundance of Covid-related scams, which people can all report by forwarding to 7726.
9. The FBI received 5.6 internet crime complaints between 2000 and 2020.
Since the establishment of the Internet Crime Complaint Center IC3 in 2000, the average number of reported complaints per day is 2,000. Spam statistics from the 2020 report reveal that victims over 60 have suffered the most financially, having lost over $966 million.
10. Nonprofits raising money lose circa $15,000 per year because of spam filters.
A study from 2015 about email deliverability shows that 14% of online fundraising emails end up directly in spam folders. They are usually intercepted by spam filters or not delivered at all because of the number of emails they are addressed to. Statistics about spam show that every 1% of emails treated as spam results in a $1,203.84 loss in potential revenue, placing the total sum for a year between $14,000 and $15,000.
11. The USPS sent 75.7 billion marketing items in 2019 and 64.1 billion in 2020.
The direct mail industry is on the rise over the last decade, and 43% of the US population finds it less annoying than the Internet. The ROI of marketing via mail is a whopping 1,300%. Customers trust print mail marketing more than email, although email marketing has nearly three times higher ROI at 3,800%. As a result, targeted campaigns increase donations by 40%.
Global Spam Statistics
12. China is the most problematic country in the world regarding spam.
Findings from the 2021 Spamhaus report include the top 10 most problematic countries in the world. The order goes by the number of live spam issues at the time of the report:
- China (3,332)
- US (3,130)
- Russia (786)
- Japan (389)
- The Republic of Korea (386)
- India (357)
- Turkey (342)
- Hong Kong (317)
- Vietnam (284)
- Dominican Republic (249).
The biggest problem here is when a certain country doesn’t take action to deal with spamming issues. They are therefore undermining global attempts to put an end to spam. In these countries, anti-spam laws are non-existent or simply inadequate.
13. Russia is the largest source of spam.
Following the IPs of outgoing spam sources, the top 5 countries have been the same for years now. Their shares are fluctuating a little, but there are no significant changes. Internet spam statistics rank the entries by the share of worldwide spam volume:
- Russia (23.5%)
- Germany (11%)
- The US (10.8%)
- France (6.7%)
- China (6.3%).
14. An extreme group of circa 100 spam gangs generates up to 80% of all Internet spam.
The list of the most tenacious spam gangs is updated in Spamhaus’s Register Of Known Spam Operations. The key criteria include:
- Who poses the highest threat?
- Who is the most persistent?
- Who is the least repentant?
- Who causes the most damage?
15. As of June 2021, Canadian Pharmacy is still the world’s biggest spam operation.
Internet spam statistics show that this operation is running on impenetrable web hosting in China and Russia but is most likely based in Ukraine. The top 10 list of organizations that generate the most spam goes as follows:
- Canadian Pharmacy (Ukraine/Russia)
- PredictLabs/ Sphere Digital (the US and Morocco)
- Blaze Media Solutions (the US)
- Mint Global Marketing/ Adgenics/ Cabo Networks (the US)
- RetroCubes (the US)
- Cyber World Internet Services/ e-Insites (the US)
- Guangzhou-Seoul Information Technology Co., Ltd. (China)
- RR Media (the US)
- Kobeni Solutions (the US)
- Richpro Trade Inc. / Richvestor GmbH (Germany).
16. Spam statistics show that with 7.76% of registered antivirus activation, Spain was the most attacked country in 2020.
Another way to determine the spam rate is by following antivirus activation. Of all measured detections for the third quarter of 2020, Spain was on top of the list. Germany was the next most targeted with 7.05%, followed by Russia (5.87%), Italy (5.52%), Vietnam (4.93%), UAE (4.39%), and Mexico (4.2%) in descending order.
17. Argentina was the first country to implement an anti-spam law in 2000.
They implemented the law on October 30, 2000, under the name of the “Personal Data Protection Act.” Spam statistics show that in the US, they regulate this under the CAN-SPAM Act, signed into law on December 16, 2003. They introduced limitations and penalties with the first national standards. Many countries all over the world still don’t have clear regulations regarding spam.
(Privacy International, FTC)
History of Spam
18. In March 1999, the Melissa virus was the first one to spread via email.
The Internet was still a new concept back then, but the virus ended up spreading like wildfire. A spammer posted a document titled “alt.sex.” online, and people started downloading it. Once it had attacked their Microsoft Word, it continued to send emails via their Outlook accounts, promising adult content. Internet spam statistics estimate the financial damage of these unsolicited email messages at $80 million. This event is the first instance of the dark side of the web for most Americans. The creation of the national Cyber Division within the FBI followed a few months later.
19. The RAT (Recovery Asset Team) was formed to assist the FBI in 2018.
With an increase in spam email causing serious financial losses, in February 2018, they formed the RAT. The service acts as a mediator between the FBI and financial institutions to recover the lost funds of scam victims. According to statistics about spam, the recovery rate for 2020 was an astounding 82%, which is a slight increase from 2019’s 79%.
20. The ILOVEYOU worm infected 10% of computers connected to the internet in only 10 days.
In May 2000, all users of Windows computers started receiving an email with ILOVEYOU in the subject line. People thought the attachment was a love letter, but it turned out to be a virus. Within a single day, the virus reached around 45 million users, and within 10, there were 50 million infected computers. As a spam response, the CIA, the Pentagon, and the UK Parliament turned off their email systems. The incident caused a major economic impact, with email spam statistics calculating the costs of recovering files and removing the virus to about $10 billion.
(Forbes, Search Security)
21. Anthony Greco was the first person in the US to be arrested and prosecuted for violating federal anti-spam law.
This happened in 2005, and Anthony was only 18 at a time. His target was the MySpace community, with the platform introducing a security upgrade soon after the events. The FBI suspected him of having sent over 1.5 million pornography and mortgage-related spam messages. They found Anthony guilty on 1 of 3 charges. He pleaded guilty and got himself a deal to a significantly reduced sentence.
Social Media Spam Statistics & Trends
22. The peak of spam content removed from Facebook was 2.9 billion instances in the last quarter of 2019.
We can look at this spam stat through the prism of global pandemic events unraveling. There are two types of reported spam content: automated and coordinated. Spam content removal statistics for the previous quarter show a million cases less. The latest quarterly data from 2020 suggest a decrease to a billion.
23. 98.3% of spam on LinkedIn was taken down by its automated defenses.
This spam statistic shows that the platform’s defense systems are quite advanced. They take both fake accounts and spam or scam content down before other members can see it 98.3% of the time. Spam statistics show that 11.6 million accounts were stopped at registration. In the period between June and December 2020, there were 157,108 cases of harassment, 110,742 of misinformation, and 22,348 of violent and graphic content. Some of the less prominent categories were hateful or derogatory speech (13,815), then adult content (9,552), and child exploitation (50).
(LinkedIn Transparency Report)
24. In May and June 2018, Twitter suspended over 70 million spam accounts.
The pace of suspicious account removal continued in the following months. The platform supported the ongoing spam trends in a battle against disinformation, bots, and trolls. The pressure grew after the company confirmed that Russia used fake accounts to interfere in the US elections.
(The Washington Post)
25. There were circa 150 million spam accounts on Instagram in 2019.
Instagram bots comprise 15% of all users. The reported number of total active Instagram users is around 1.22 billion. Research states that the prevailing reason is getting users to sign up on adult-content websites. The most common technique they use is leaving comments on influencers’ and celebrities’ posts, promising said content. That is why these are colloquially called “porn bots.”
(Digital Information World)
Mobile & Messaging Spam Statistics
26. In 2020, 56 million people in the US fell for a phone scam and lost money.
Scam calls pose a genuine threat, and the largest recorded number happened in 2020. COVID-19 marked the year, and the growth from 2019 is an appalling 30% (43 million Americans). The growth is even bigger compared to 2018 when 24.9 million Americans lost money due to phone scams. The average monthly loss among the victims who have reported this was $351. The estimate for the total amount of money lost to phone scams meanwhile stands at $19.7 billion, according to spam call statistics. The numbers from 2018 and 2019 were significantly lower, though, at $8.9 billion and $10.5 billion, respectively.
27. 44% of US citizens have received faulty COVID-19 calls or messages.
As the situation with the pandemic worsened, spammers used it to do what they’re best at. Almost half of the US population has received either a call or an SMS with false information. Some messages contained links to the worst spam sites supposedly containing the latest news. Of course, to access it, people needed to create an account and share personal information.
28. In 2019, ApexSMS suffered a data breach resulting in a monumental spamming operation.
The India-based company is using Mobile Drip, which is a high-volume messaging and marketing platform. The breach resulted in exposing the database of their 80 million records. The estimate is that they sent 38 million messages to the obtained numbers. SMS spam statistics further indicate that 2.1 million recipients clicked on the link and ended up victims of spammers. Over 115,000 of them replied to spam messages.
29. The US jumped from 8th place in 2019 to 2nd in 2020 on the list of countries affected by spam calls.
The volume of spam is increasing because of the pandemic. In 2019, the average number of spam calls per user was 18.2 calls on a monthly basis. With an increase of a whopping 56%, US citizens were receiving 28.4 spam calls monthly. Brazil has been holding the top spot for years now, with 2020 results being 49.9, according to spam statistics. Hungary comes right after the US, followed by Poland. Spain and Indonesia share the result of 18.3 in fifth place.
30. 75% of consumers actually don’t mind receiving promotional content from brands via SMS.
SMS is a great way to reach people because they find it unobtrusive and it doesn’t require an Internet connection. Since it’s not generally considered a type of spam advertising, text message marketing software and services are a great opportunity to engage consumers, with campaigns producing a 14% conversion rate. Consumers will redeem coupons received this way up to 10 times more.
What percent of email is spam?
Statistics about spam indicate that over 50% of all email in recent years is spam. Data from 2020 points to an average percentage of 47.3%.
How many spam emails are sent per day?
Users send 306.4 billion emails daily. With over 50% being cases of spam email, about 150 billion spam emails are sent and received daily.
When was the first spam email sent?
The first spam email was sent on May 3rd, 1978, in the US. It was the first bulk email for commercial purposes, sent by marketing representative Gary Thuerk. The Internet didn’t exist, but its predecessor, ARPANET, did. Said email was sent to 393 recipients, promoting the latest computer model.
How much money is lost to email scams every year?
Global spam statistics point to stunning billions of dollars. Spam costs for companies in the first quarter of 2019 were up to $26.2 billion. For the US, the total for 2020 reported cases was more than $4.1 billion in losses.
What companies send the most spam?
Spamming companies responsible for the vast majority of spam are Canadian Pharmacy, PredictLabs, Sphere Digital, Blaze Media Solutions, Mint Global Marketing, Adgenics, Cabo Networks, etc. As of June 2021, there were 54 spam operations on the full Register Of Known Spam Operations list.
How much spam email is normal?
Spam statistics don’t give a precise answer here. It is relative and will heavily depend on factors, including your spam filters, regular email traffic, as well as your location. Some, however, say that the acceptable number is 1-2 emails per day.
- Today I Found Out
- 360 Research Reports
- Google Cloud Blog
- IC3 Report 2020
- Secure List
- Privacy International
- IC3 Report 2019
- Search Security
- LA Times
- LinkedIn Transparency
- The Washington Post
- Digital Information World