Mitt Romney, the former Massachusetts governor who’s leading polls in the race to become the Republican Party’s nominee for the US presidency, is also the favorite politician of spammers touting knockoff drugs and dubious bargains in junk e-mail.
Romney is mentioned in 45 percent of spam messages that reference US politics, ahead of second-placed Republican Newt Gingrich, who scored 33 percent, according to a Bitdefender analysis of 8 million unsolicited messages spread in January.
Romney’s name was most often used in scam messages that advertise low-interest loans or free credit score analysis while Gingrich was mentioned in junk mail promoting miraculous energy saving devices that almost certainly don’t exist. Most of these offerings actually redirect the unwary user to survey site scams or knockoff drugs for sexual dysfunctions.
US Republican hopeful Ron Paul came third in the spammers’ list, with 12.18 percent. The most popular politician outside the Republican race that caught the spammers’ attention this year was Bill Clinton, with 3.99 percent.
“Winning Most-Mentioned Politician in Bitdefender’s spam survey is probably not an honor that many politicians want,” said Bitdefender E-Threats Analyst Bogdan Botezatu, who coordinated the spam study. “And I don’t think we’ll see spammers suddenly turning into political pundits. But the results could tell us which politicians spammers think are most likely to get a reaction from random e-mail readers. Spammers are, ultimately, after money and they’re essentially making a bet on popularity when they favor one politician’s name over another.”
Spam messages frequently use names of celebrities or politicians in fragments of news items in an attempt to give credibility to the message and to trick antispam filters that look for the percentage of links versus other words in the message. Only a small portion of the spam analyzed in the Bitdefender study – or about 0.24 percent – mentioned US politicians at all.
In the overall analysis of spam – not filtered to include only political references – the Republican politicians were handily beat by celebrities including Jay Leno, Eva Longoria, Kobe Bryant, and even political commentator Rush Limbaugh.