One of the reasons mortgage spam is such a pain in the inbox is not just because there's so much of it, but also because it's showing up elsewhere.

The good news is that mortgage spam, along with spam in general, is down. Unfortunately, it's getting harder to shake because it's showing up in portals that were once spam free.

Watch out for SPIM and SPIT, new forms of spam that are just as nasty as they sound.

For the third quarter in a row, in the fourth quarter 2005, mortgage, loan and financial deals were the most prevalent form of spam, also known as junk email and officially dubbed unsolicited commercial email (UCE).

Spam offering mortgage, loan and financial deals represented 21 percent, or more than one in five pieces of spam, according to Lexington, MA-based networking, messaging and file transfer software maker Ipswitch.

After mortgages the most common types of spam were porn spam (18 percent); lottery and gambling spam (16 percent); gift card spam (16 percent); and medication, drugs and prescription spam (12 percent).

When compared to the previous quarter, however, mortgage spam represented a smaller share of all spam dropping from one third -- 33 percent to 21 percent.

Mortgage spam generates almost as much contempt as pornographic spam and unsolicited real estate email isn't far behind on the Spam-I-Hate-Most meter.

A 2002 Harris Poll of 2,221 adults found that mortgage spam was second only to pornographic email solicitations, followed by investments, real estate, software and computers as the top spam irritants computer users deleted with disgust.

Software maker Symantec said spam declined from the beginning of 2005 through June and Ipswitch also reported that the percentage of email received that was spam fell from 74 percent to 57 percent between August and December 2005.

Sorry. It's not time to shout "Hallelujah!" just yet.

While there could be some relief for businesses suffering the costs of spam clogging their networks, spammers don't die, they just take their nasty little habits elsewhere.

Instant messages and blogs are the new targets.

"The spammers and cyber criminals that plague the global online community are increasingly moving to other means in their goal of slowing down the information super highway, through targeting emerging technologies such as instant messaging and blogging," said David Karp, Ipswitch's product marketing director.

A fraction of the reduced amount of spam can also be attributed to busts prompted by the Controlling the Assault of Non-Solicited Pornography and Marketing (CAN-SPAM) Act effective since January 1, 2004, but most experts say the federal law has been largely impotent against the spam onslaught.

"Although users are becoming more knowledgeable in their approach to spam, the spammers remain one or more steps ahead. It is of massive importance that users have suitable email anti-spam capabilities in place, while companies also begin to look at SPIM (Spam over Instant Messaging) and SPIT (Spam over IP Telephony) as well," said information technology analyst Clive Longbottom with Europe's Quocirca.

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