August 19th, 2006

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04:37 pm - smells like spam
If you have an email account, you've noticed that the most massively reiterated spams these days are "hot tips" for penny stock. The way they're put together, they're damnably difficult to block - the actual content is a single JPEG, which by itself already makes things a little difficult, but what REALLY makes it tough is that the JPEGs, while visually identical, are actually unique per spam due to noise introduced into the encoding.

The weird thing about these spams is, they're pure advertisement - meaning there's no link to click, no number to call, nobody to email. The spam is trying to get you, on your own recognizance, to make the decision to call your own broker and buy some of the stock they're touting. This seems like a really low-yield technique to me; most spam relies heavily on the "impulse" factor. The more I thought about it, the more I wondered - are these shady companies that are paying organized crime outfits (where the majority of spam and malware comes from these days) to advertise them via spam, or are these paper IPOs created by the same organized crime outfits that are spamming them, existing for no other reason but to get people to buy the stock?

So today I decided to check the web to see if the latest spammed pennystock company - "L International Computers Inc." - was actually on the web ANYWHERE for any reason other than stock trading. I failed to find it in anything but stock trader pages - as expected - but I did find this:

Dude put up a page with real-time numbers as though he had bought $1,000 of every stock he's been spammed for since May 5th of last year.  He's "lost" over $40,000 so far (for a whopping 62% loss on investment!). Pretty cool. =)

It's worth noting that a LOT of the companies he "bought" have disappeared off the market completely over the last year - not due to bankruptcy, but due to name changes. He had a lot of trouble trying to track the changes and reissues. That, along with the way every single one of these penny stocks tanks (not just in the long term, but in the VERY short term also) after being spammed, tells my spider-sense that I was right - these are paper IPOs created by the spammers themselves. Rather than playing market games themselves, the spammers are simply pocketing the money spent to buy shares in their "offerings" and relisting under a different name when people quit buying.

The last thing I'll note about this one is the unusual - though still undeniably stupid - target market. Most spams seem targeted at an ignorant lower/middle class victim: erectile dysfunction drugs, painkillers, tranquilizers, porn, shady mortgages, fake rolexes, the like. Rich folks generally don't buy fake rolexes, and have better, cheaper, and legitimate sources for all of the rest. The penny stock spam scam, however, is aimed squarely at the at least reasonably well-to-do: how many blue-collar working stiffs do you know who have a broker on speed-dial?

Stupid, obviously, knows neither class nor income boundaries... and when you combine "stupid" and "greedy" with "well-heeled", what you end up with is scammer heaven.

Current Mood: inquisitive
Current Music: Cee Lo - I'll Be Around

(3 comments | Leave a comment)


[User Picture] From: jette
Date: August 20th, 2006 - 12:56 am
I always wonder about those.

I sure get a lot of spam now that the Friends of Camp Mather put my email address on the site. :-(

[User Picture] From: aj_reloaded
Date: August 20th, 2006 - 04:49 am
this isn't even lol worthy.

[User Picture] From: jimbojones
Date: August 20th, 2006 - 05:37 am
the scam itself, or what I wrote about it?

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