Stock Spam Hitting Inboxes
Lately, a goodly proportion of the spam email that has been darkening my inboxes is of the annoying "stock tip" variety. The amount of questions about this spam from site visitors indicates that I am certainly not the only one getting inundated with this irritating trash.
The messages usually contain a "tip" advising investors to buy stock in a particular company as soon as possible in order to gain good returns. The messages arrive in a variety of formats and target a number of companies.
Unlike most other kinds of spam, stock spam generally does not include a link back to the spammer's website and many have wondered what the spammer hopes to gain by posting it. Basically, the purpose of this spam is to influence the stock price of the targeted company so that the spammer can make a quick profit on his or her shares. There are various angles on the ruse, but the primary goal is to get a lot of extra investors to trade on the specified company thus altering the price of stock in a way favourable to the spammer. Although it may seem doubtful that such a scheme would actually work, reports indicate
that stock spam campaigns can indeed reap profits for the spammer.
Much of this spam arrives with very weird, off-topic subject lines and the actual "tip" may be an image embedded within paragraphs of random text (see example below). The use of images along with the strange subject lines and random text are intended to trick spam filters into letting the message go through. Spam filters are often configured to detect messages that contain certain words, phrases or ways of structuring sentences that are commonly indicative of spam. If these indicators add up to a significant percentage of the message, the filter will block the message as spam. By including the spam "payload" in an image that cannot be "read" by the filter and adding random text, the messages can sneak through without being flagged as spam.
Like other kinds of spam, there is no easy remedy for unsolicited stock email. It might be tempting to complain to the company named in the message. However according to an article
on Spamnation.info, the targeted companies are rarely the ones responsible for the messages and "most stock spams are sent by third-party speculators". Advanced spam filtering techniques may be helpful, although, as noted above, the spammers use various dirty tricks to avoid filters. If filtering is ineffective, hitting your "Delete" key may ultimately be the most effective option. At least "Delete" never fails.
Of course, the hidden culprits are those investors who actually act on the information in the spam emails. As with all kinds of spam, if you buy from spammers you are making the problem worse for all Internet users and are almost as culpable as the spammers themselves. If nobody bought from spammers, the problem would soon evaporate. In any case, Spamnation notes that
making investments based on stock spam is unlikely to be worthwhile.
A typical stock spam email:
Subject: Tales Rat FinkThe
Spamnation: Stock Spam FAQ
Study shows stock spam boosts prices
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Last updated: 20th October 2006
First published: 20th October 2006
Write-up by Brett M.Christensen