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Almost a third of consumers admit responding to messages that might be spam emails. Some acted out of curiosity or by mistake but a puzzling 96 from a sample of 800 (12 per cent) said they clicked because they interested in the product or service advertised in junk mail messages.

A survey by the Messaging Anti-Abuse Working Group (MAAWG), released on Wednesday, also found that four in five consumers thought it unlikely they were at risk from malware capable of turning their PC into a spam-relaying zombie, despite the prevalence of the problem. MAAWG commissioned researchers to interview 800 ordinary computer users in North America.

While half of those surveyed said they never click on suspected spam, around one in five (21 per cent) fail to use email filtering software or services.

David Ferris, an analyst at Ferris Research, commented: "According to the MAAWG findings, about one in six people are prepared to make an effort to report spam and the industry should find more ways to tap into this potential. Conversely, the volume of people who still respond to spam is regrettable, because it's an economic incentive to spammers."

MAAWG's 60 page study, entitled A Look at Consumers' Awareness of Email Security and Practices or 'Of Course I Never Reply to Spam, Except Sometimes', including graphs and more detailed analysis can be found here. The industry group's members include representatives from IronPort, McAfee, Spamhaus and Symantec. Its sponsors include AOL, Verizon and France Telecom.

The organisation is dedicated to fighting the nuisance of junk mail through "technology, industry collaboration and public policy" activities. ®

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