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That particular spammer had allegedly earned at least $3 million, in addition to costing EarthLink an estimated $1 million, if you use the accepted formula that every million e-mails carries $1,000 in bandwidth costs.
But Carmack was no high-flying e-commerce mogul. Quite the contrary; he was a work-a-day spammer-for-hire who apparently was more than willing to annoy the entire U.S. population three times over for about what you'd earn flipping burgers at McDonald's.
One "herbal remedy" retailer who hired Carmack to handle his marketing told authorities that out of 10 million e-mails sent, he made 20 sales, netting a less-than-grand total of $300.
So what's the point of all that effort and risk when there's so little to be gained?
"Every spammer thinks he's going to be the one who's gonna grab the brass ring," Wellborn says dismissively.
And yet, because of e-mail's low overhead, there is a great deal of money to be made by e-marketers who manage to evade ISP lawsuits, fraud charges and spam filters. Mostly, it's being made by companies or individuals, like Carmack, hired to send spam for other companies. Or by e-mail retailers with a knack for knowing what appeals to online impulse buyers -- i.e. porn sites. Or by modern-day snake-oil salesmen whose products -- real or imaginary -- would have been advertised a decade ago in the back pages of sleazy men's magazines.
Referred to coyly by the Federal Trade Commission as "organ enlargement offers," these ubiquitous e-mails seem targeted at guys whose brain power is directly proportional to the size of their johnson. Which means there are plenty of suckers out there.
Consider the case of C.P. Direct, a Scottsdale, Ariz.-company busted last year for credit-card fraud and making outlandish medical claims for various herbal products. C.P. offered pills for enlarging the penis and breasts, growing taller, avoiding baldness and even making the customer a better golfer.
Not surprisingly, an estimated 90 percent of the company's revenues came from Longitude, its penis-enlargement pill that was said to work by expanding the "soft tissue" around blood vessels.
What is surprising -- and depressing in equal measure -- is the fact that C.P. Direct raked in at least $74 million in sales in the two years before it was shut down. U.S. Customs officials estimate that as many as 500,000 under-endowed men had responded to the company's ads.
It also should shock only the pathologically gullible that, no matter what its specific, totally guaranteed effects were supposed to be, every herbal product the company sold was -- you guessed it -- made from exactly the same combination of worthless ingredients.
While pills are certainly the most common penis-enlargement product touted through spam, they are far from your only opportunity for flushing money down the crapper.
There's likely e-mail on its way to you right now that will link to websites where you can shop for such atrocities as the "BIB Hanger," which, according to the spiel, "takes the discomfort out of hanging heavy weights from the penis." Darn, and Father's Day has already passed.
Or how about a "JES Extender," a traction devise that makes it look as if one's mini-member is wearing a tiny neck brace. Just make sure you take it off before a hot date.
Then there's the Dr. Joel Kaplan Penis Pump, which comes in a basic hand-pump model for $100 on up to the $600 flagship set-up that presumably lights you a cigarette after each workout.
If you need help deciding which PE scam may be right for you, you'll want to consult www.penisenlargementmagazine.com -- sort of a cut-rate, dick-obsessed J.D. Powers -- which claims its reviewers exhaustively test and rate each system.
But Dr. Howard Rottenberg of the North Atlanta Urology clinic in Sandy Springs suggests that you not waste your money on pills, stretching methods or even surgery.
"I don't think any of these techniques have any real merit," he says. "The size of the corpus cavernosa -- the part of the penis that fills with blood -- is pretty well fixed. You could conceivably stretch your penis, but that won't make it bigger where it counts."
On the other hand, he says, a patient of his who's distraught over his minuscule manhood recently said he was thinking of investing in a penile vacuum pump.
"I told him to give it a try," Rottenberg says. "I mean, what's he got to lose?"
A common question among the spammed is, "How did they get my e-mail address?" Ah, but that was the easy part.
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