Bulk email is email that is sent to a a large number of people. Sometimes, bulk email that contains useful information is sent to a specific group of people, such as a business email list. It often is used in online business marketing campaigns as well. In many cases, however, bulk email refers to unsolicited advertisements, scams, or other forms of junk mail that are sent to a large number of recipients. Companies and individuals acquire email addresses in a variety of ways from simply searching message boards for email addresses to creating viruses that harvest addresses from people's email address books. Usually, the process of sending mass emails is automated.
Advertising is one of the most widely-used purposes of bulk email. Pornography, cosmetic pills, poker and other gambling Web sites, and such novelty items as replica watches are commonly advertised through the mass sending of email. As such, many people find them to be quite offensive; many of the products and services advertised through such emails are definitely targeted at adults. Occasionally, the emails sent are religious or spiritual in nature and usually involve conversion or donation to some charity which may or may not be legitimate. While many people are aware that email advertisements are risky, many—especially those with less technological knowledge—believe every word of the ads and end up spending a great deal of money while receiving little to show for it.
Scams are sent through bulk email on a regular basis. Some ask for money for an absurd cause, such as helping some foreign government official or member of royalty who has experienced some vague form of injustice. Others may claim that the recipient has won some prize, award, and sum of money and ask for banking information so that the recipient can claim his reward. Whatever the strategy, scams are usually run by groups or gangs of scammers who may operate several scams at the same time.
Most email providers have a service that is able to block bulk email. Sometimes, it is even an automatic feature that requires no setup or configuration. Most bulk email that is not associated with a school or with a business is usually simply trying to get the recipient to pay money for some product or service that he does not need. Despite the barriers of knowledge and blocking software, bulk email is still used on a regular basis. The costs involved with sending it are absolutely minimal, so if even one person pays anything because of a spam email, the sender is likely to make money.