Investment Scams: Bulletin Boards
There are literally hundreds of investment boards where anyone can rant, rave, or post BS. Online bulletin boards (BBs) come in various forms, including newsgroups, usenet, or web-based boards. Some of the larger BBs, like those found on sites such as Raging Bull, Boards on Yahoo! Finance, and Silicon Investor, see thousands of messages posted on an hourly basis.
While there are many valid and useful posts on these boards, a large number of tips turn out to be bogus. Fraudsters most often use a pump and dump scheme on BBs by pretending to reveal inside information about big upcoming announcements, great new products, or lucrative contracts. The opposite can be done too. If fraudsters hold a short position in a company, they will try to spread negative rumors in the hope that investors will panic and push prices down.
Here's the tricky part about BBs: anonymity. You don't know for sure who you're dealing with and how credible they are. People claiming to be unbiased observers who've carefully researched a company may actually be company insiders, large shareholders, or paid promoters. A single person can easily create the illusion of widespread interest in a small, thinly-traded stock by posting a series of messages under various aliases.
In the aftermath of the dotcom bubble, bulletin boards experienced a dramatic drop in traffic. Thankfully, many investors realized they couldn't believe everything they read online. But that's not to say there is no valuable information on BBs. Before Enron went bankrupt, posts were made online that revealed many of the fraudulent practices taking place at the energy giant. Regrettably, at the same time, there were countless posts that were bullish on Enron. It's nearly impossible to sort out the valuable posts from the fake ones.
Investment Scams: Newsletters
Every stock pick site offers a newsletter that is supposedly full of useful insights and great stocks. There are many good newsletters out there, but some are just promoting stocks under the guise of presenting investors with "free unbiased information."
In fact, many companies hire employees or pay people to write online newsletters to promote their stock. In theory, this practice is not illegal. But federal securities laws require newsletters to disclose who paid them, the amount paid, and the type of payment. Most fraudulent newsletters fail to provide this information. Instead, they lie about the income they receive, their independence, their research, and their historical results. They stand to profit handsomely if they convince investors to buy or sell particular stocks. Newsletters also use the pump and dump technique discussed earlier. With enough people on the list, it is possible to create movement in the price of small stocks.
Even worse is junk e-mail or "spam." As spam costs next to nothing to create, it has become the tool of choice for many fraudsters. Often these messages consist of "get-rich-quick" schemes and offer "guaranteed results." If the sender is unfamiliar to you or the message is addressed generally (great investment tip) it is likely a scam. Brokers and traders don't give away good tips to random people for free. Besides, no reputable company would spam to get their name out. The smartest thing you can do is hit your delete button.
Identifying these shady e-mails isn't tough. Besides promising huge results with no risk, look for CAPITALIZED LETTERS WITH MANY EXCLAMATION MARKS!!! FOR SOME REASON SCAM ARTISTS THINK YOU'LL LISTEN IF THEY WRITE LIKE THEY ARE SCREAMING AT YOU!!! Another clue is when the e-mail comes from free e-mail providers such as yahoo.com or hotmail.com. Spammers use these addresses to hide where the original message comes from.
Okay, now, a question for you: how many true and independent messages do you Mayata expect to be left in City.UDN.com?
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