A new survey claims that more than 10 percent of e-mail users have purchased products advertised in spam.

The preliminary report from Mirapoint and the Radicati Group, suggests that it is the very success of spam in tempting users that is now driving the massive rise in the phenomenon.

Common estimates of product spam success rates are usually much lower - the figure quoted the most often is 0.00036 percent - so the new figure of one in ten looks seriously out of kilter with received wisdom if it is taken at face value.

Other findings include that 18 percent of surveyed users have naively attempted to unsubscribe from spam by replying to the unwanted e-mail, inadvertently increasing the likelihood of their receiving it in future.

Similarly, 31 percent of users admit to having clicked on links in spam email, something that not only helps spammers confirm live e-mail addresses but which might also allow Trojan infection.

“This data is surprising and somewhat shocking to us,” said Marcel Nienhuis, market analyst at the Radicati Group. “It explains why e-mail security threats including spam, viruses and phishing scams continue to proliferate. […] No technology in the world can protect an organization if users’ exercise bad email behaviour.”

Although not mentioned in the initial findings, Radicati has confirmed to Techworld that the headline 10 percent statistic was drawn from a 70 end-user responses, 7 of whom said they had replied to spam at some point.

The statistic should, however, be taken in context. It can be taken to mean that ten percent of users admit that at one time they have bought (or tried to buy) products advertised in spam. That does not mean that this statistic indicates the true levels of spam marketing success.

Why the companies chose to release “preliminary” findings when the report is only days away, remains baffling. Similarly, drawing conclusions from a sample size as small as seventy people risks over-stating the success of spam.