Fake stock market tips are spammers’ latest ruse

20 Apr 2004

Spammers’ latest ruse to trap the gullible involves offering bogus financial tips, as an increasing number of unsolicited emails now contain supposed stock advice, new monthly figures from content security provider Clearswift have indicated.

By persuading people to invest in certain companies, it is thought that spammers can make gains by pushing up the value of those stocks. Typically these are so-called penny stocks – relating to firms with a low market capitalisation. If additional numbers of people are can be convinced to buy into a company, driving up its value in the process, existing investors can then sell their own shares at a profit.

According to Clearswift, spammers may themselves hold shares in the companies whose reputations they try to inflate. “The proliferation of these emails suggests that they are creating revenues for the spammers, and demonstrates just how vulnerable people are to the offer of quick financial gain,” the company said.

The content of a typical financial spam leads the recipient to believe that they are being made privy to inside information about the company before it has been publicly announced.

Alyn Hockey, Clearswift’s director of research, said: “It is hard to believe that spammers can influence stock market prices but they wouldn’t be sending these emails unless there was something it for them. Perhaps the pick up in the economy is tempting the uneducated investor to have a flutter. I would advise people to be extremely dubious of any claims made in emails unless they come from a trusted source.”

Financial spam rose from 10.8pc to 26pc on ClearSwift’s Spam Index, which the company attributed to the growing problem of bogus stock tips. Pharmaceutical spam, for example, offering cut-price prescription drugs, still dominates the index. According to ClearSwift it accounts for 57pc of all unsolicited commercial email.

The figures are derived from thousands of emails received by Clearswift every week, including spam generated by seeding email accounts and spam submissions forwarded to Clearswift by a selection of its 20 million users.

By Gordon Smith