Spam, Scams and Shams: Content Analysis of Unsolicited Email

By Michelle Berzins.

Published by The Technology Collection

Format Price
Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

There are so many benefits to Internet-based services including cost effectiveness, timeliness, accessibility, speed and convenience (Krone & Johnson, 2007). However, there are also innumerable scams transmitted via the Internet everyday resulting in emerging technologies being used as tools through which online crimes can be planned or implemented (Savona & Mignone, 2004). The use of computer-mediated communications has therefore resulted in scams evolving rapidly (Holt & Graves, 2007) and they can now exist wherever an Internet connection exists. Many scams are delivered by unsolicited bulk email (otherwise known as ‘spam’), and include offers ranging from improved sexual performance to job offers, replica goods and cheap computer software. The sheer volume and financial damage caused by these forms of cyber-crime is largely immeasurable, particularly given the general challenges presented by the online environment including the borderless and global nature of the Internet, the affordability, accessibility, anonymity, speed and immediacy of online transactions, and the lack of readily accessible evidentiary material such as documents or fingerprints (Perry, 2002). Using content analysis, this study assessed the form, content and quantity of over 400 unsolicited emails received during a one month period. Content analysis and descriptive statistical analysis revealed the typical characteristics of these emails, which were then contrasted against the emails received in a preceding study by Holt and Graves (2007). The results indicate that continued consumer education regarding the safe use of online communication fora is essential to ensure users are informed and confident when using the Internet for interpersonal exchanges and online purchases.

Keywords: Scam, Unsolicited Email, Cyber-Crime, Content Analysis

The International Journal of Technology, Knowledge and Society, Volume 5, Issue 2, pp.143-154. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 1.151MB).

Dr. Michelle Berzins

Sessional Lecturer, Faculty of Education, University of Canberra, Canberra, ACT, Australia

Sessional lecturer in the Faculty of Education (University of Canberra). Recipient of two Chancellor’s Commendations and an Australian Postgraduate Award for research into cartel conduct. Research interests include white collar crime, critical thinking and the transfer of learning.

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