Manual spam services
We've all heard stories about people who are paid to solve CAPTCHAs. Well, through my Mollom work, I recently learned about PixProfit. Using that site, you can earn $1 for every 1,000 image CAPTCHAs that you solve on behalf of spammers. Indeed, according to the site, "You are limited by your typing speed only - you can proceed up to ten pictures per minute. So, your payment can grow up to $3 per hour.". Crazy!
Now look at a comment spam service like Buy Blog Comments that sells 40 blog comments for $9.99, and you'll realize how sick this is and what returns these spammers are looking at. Double crazy!
This is a good example of why a hosted CAPTCHA service, like Mollom, is a better solution than using CAPTCHAs that are generated locally on your website. At Mollom, we examine trends occurring over many websites and we know when certain IPs are solving too many CAPTCHAs. Further, we also use text analysis to determine when CAPTCHAs are needed, making our solution particularly robust.
But, this raises an interesting question. For many people in some countries, $3 per hour is a good salary. What will happen as more of these people come online (sometimes with free laptops)? Will more of these companies spring up overnight? I hope not!