Friday, October 20, 2006

Tech: The brilliant untraceable spam scam

The perfect scam is where nobody can ever identify your involvement. And I finally found it.

I’ve been getting a lot of spam trying to get me to buy shares in some Chinese company or other. "Really, you’ll love this one, it’s going to go through the roof next week. But I’ve told you this before the announcement, so you can invest now. You’ll make millions."

Why do people do it? At first I thought the Chinese companies were just trying to pump up their own share prices. But then I got a spam recommending to me a Texas oil company.

Why oil companies? They’re the typical prospector, pottering along earning very little unless suddenly they hit it big. Their shares hover close to nothing in price, but if there’s a rumour, they can multiply value overnight. Then sink back to where they were, when it all peters out.

I sought mention of this Texas company, and stumbled across a press release from them - a couple of months old - that distanced themselves from certain information put out by “third parties”.

What better way to profit from spam?? Buy up some shares that are languishing at 11 cents. Send out millions of emails, and when enough suckers buy, sell out and you’ve made your money. Let the market do the dirty work – your hands are clean. No traceability.

Ingeneous! Much cleverer than I was giving them credit for.

Update 17-Nov-06: I just found out that this is a common ploy known as "pump and dump".
However, that Wikipedia entry didn't mention the crucial point of superiority of this scam: that the purpetrator is virtually untraceable.

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