Gross $4,000 a day with Viagra spam

Paul Raven @ 29-09-2009

Ever wonder why the flood of emails plugging funny-shaped blue pills for gentlemen shows no sign of relenting? The simple answer is that enough people keep clicking on them to make it an extremely lucrative business – according to Ars Technica, a detailed trawl of sales ledgers reveals that pharmaceutical affiliate spam networks can pull in $4,000 a day of orders:

Samosseiko discovered a wide-open PHP backend to GlavMed that contained evidence that the company is indeed set up to benefit largely from spammers. This involves e-commerce software for spammers to launch their own GlavMed copies or to simply set up domains that redirect to GlavMed. Additionally, some of the documents Samosseiko discovered were sales records, giving a glimpse into the purchasing behavior of GlavMed’s targets.

According to the sales records from GlavMed, there were apparently more than 20 purchases per day per spam campaign, with GlavMed claiming a 40 percent commission on each sale. With an average purchase of around $200, that adds up to over $4,000 total per day per campaign (or $1,600 for GlavMed).

Those are the sort of figures that would make even the most moral code-monkey think hard about trading in their sysadmin cubicle for the easy life. It’s abundantly clear that no amount of effort is ever going to stop people clicking on spam emails, and while the market is willing to line people’s pockets to the tune of hundreds of dollars a day they’re not going to stop coming… all the while funding other organisations with more nefarious aims and purposes.

This also highlights the problem with nation-states in a networked world restricting certain products and services to their citizens, as recent adventures in attempting to restrict online gambling sites has demonstrated. As geography continues its slide into irrelevance, attempting to ban something that’s openly available anywhere else in the world becomes an exercise in bombastic futility that does little beyond undermining your credibility and authority.

Perhaps opening up legal avenues for the purchase of the more popular and controversial pharmaceuticals is the answer? After all, serious thought is being given to relaxing prohibition on more dangerous drugs as it becomes clear that their restricted availability plays into the hands of criminals… why not make the drugs safer for consumers by controlling quality and distribution, and hobble an easy income stream for the underworld?

That said, there’ll always be something that people want to buy but can’t; I guess it’d be a case of finding where the tipping point between easy profits and risk of operation is. Then all we’ll be left with are dodgy refinancing offers and invitations to see fallen pop stars in the buff…

So, how long is it going to be before I have to lock the comments on this post to block the flood of pingbacks? Place your bets, ladies and gents, place your bets…