According to AOL's Third Annual Top 10 Spam List, those nasty -- and tireless -- spammers are getting craftier, more devious and more dangerous. And gone are the days when inboxes were filled with pornographic spam. In 2005, it was all about 'The Donald'.
As we move into 2006, however, some say spammers increasingly will give up on their old methods and turn to new targeted attacks.
Here is what worked for this year, though. This is AOL's list of the Top Five Spams of 2005:
For the full list of tricky spams, you can go to this AOL site.
Spammers increasingly are trying to trick people into thinking they're receiving a one-on-one email or that someone is responding to an email that they had sent out. And pornographic spam has stopped flooding in simply because we're getting better at spotting it and filtering it out, according to Nicholas Graham, a spokesperson for AOL.
''Porn has fallen off the radar screen for a lot of consumers,'' says Graham. ''It's easily recognizable and so many filters are advanced enough to detect porn spam and relegate it to the spam folder. And a lot of porn spam simply contained a link that would take people to a scam site, and now these links are clearly identifiable as scams or phishing schemes.''
But spammers aren't ones to easily give up. If porn isn't working like it used to, then what schemes are they turning to?
Graham says spammers are taking on a much more targeted approach.
''Now we're seeing this special order spam,'' Graham told Datamation. ''By personalizing the spam, they're more likely to get a response, and in the spam world it's all about responding. They're trying to get you to open the email and give up some kind of information, like your name or your hobby. Then the next spam they send you is tailored to you and your interests.
''They're taking that initial information that you may think is harmless and they're using it to send a second round of spam that is more insidious and crafty,'' he adds. ''You have taken on an air of trust because you've already talked with them and now you might be more likely to give them even more information.''
For instance, the first round of spam might ask the user for her name, what she likes to do on the weekend or where she likes to shop. If the user sends that information back to the spammer, it goes into a fairly sophisticated program that then generates another spam message -- this one more tailored to the specific user.
Graham says the second spam might even say something like, 'Hey Nicholas, Your order didn't make it to Main Street in Florida. Can you reconfirm your credit card number and your billing address?'.
It's the the new evolution of spam,'' says Graham. ''Because of the actions that AOL, other ISPs and the FTC have taken, spammers are getting a little more desperate and they're having to take more action to get a little money.''