No End In Sight For Spammers

Ronnie Scelson freely admits to being one of the most hated men in America.

"I've had cars stolen, I've had windows busted out, I've had death threats," says Scelson

That's because Scelson has turned three little words, "You've Got Mail," into a phrase e-mail users have come to dread. Half of the messages in most in-boxes today aren't from friends and family, they're from strangers like Scelson.

Every day, Scelson says he sends out an average of 180 million spam messages.

If only a tiny fraction respond, Scelson cashes in, so his computers have become weapons of mass production.

Since his computers are always running, he's essentially spamming 24 hours per day.

"I'm at 1.8 million per hour and still climbing," he says.

Scelson is one of about 200 or so hardcore "spammers" who send out billions of e-mails every day trying to sell stuff most people don't want to buy.

Aside from being infuriating and tremendously annoying, it's also expensive. It's estimated that between lost productivity and the cost of fighting it, spam will drain about $10 billion out of U.S. businesses this year.

Internet service providers like America Online have brought in batteries of manpower to battle the war of the wires.

Charles Stiles runs AOL's anti-spam program, which blocks about 2.5 billion spams every day.

Of the spammers, Stiles says, "They are bad guys and we're the superheroes."

Without the anti-spam program, Stiles says a person could expect to find approximately three times as many spam messages in their inbox.

There are anti-spam laws in some 35 states, and Washington is working on federal legislation. But Scelson says the laws are only driving spammers underground and offshore.

"I've already got back up plans and ways to do it," says Scelson, adding that there is no way to stop spam.

Which means that without some e-miracle, we've all got some more deleting to do.