McAfee Labs

A New Twist on ‘Pump and Dump’ Stock Scams

By on Nov 03, 2010

It looks like spammers have found a new way to increase their success rates on their “pump and dump” stock scams: using the target company’s legitimate social media marketing campaigns to their advantage.

We’ve seen it before: Spammers purchase penny (low-priced) stocks, advertise them through email in an attempt to increase the stock price, and then sell and make a profit. An interesting twist in a new campaign targeting over-the-counter stock Ganas Corp. (GACR) is that scammers are using the company’s YouTube video channel, which legitimately advertises its all-electric SUV, to lure users into buying the stock. The campaign appears to have worked. Take a look at this screen shot taken from CNN Money, which tracks the price of GACR over the past five days:

Notice the fluctuations in stock price. Although many factors can influence the price, the recent peaks and valleys seem to indicate that there have been multiple spam runs on this particular security, the most recent at the end of the day November 2, in which the price jumped about 30 percent in a couple of hours. This stock appears even more attractive to unwitting buyers because the year-to-date price is down about 70 percent, leading the victims to believe that this is a really good deal–while remaining oblivious to the fact that they are about to be left holding the bag after the scammers sell their shares.

Even if you invest in the stock market and think you have this game figured out, I suggest you not try to outsmart the criminals. You might believe that you can play the system and make money on a pump-and-dump campaign along with the scammers. But they hold all the cards: Only they know when they are going to get in and get out and manipulate the stock price to their advantage. Always do your investment research with reputable sources and make informed decisions about spending your money. Do not take stock advice from unsolicited emails or from sources that you do not trust. If you thought the odds were against you at the casino, they’re worse here.

Criminals using a company’s social media channels for profit is an interesting addition to the scam sagas. As social media platforms and the ads that can be delivered through them become more open, we can expect to see scams similar to this one become more prevalent. In the meantime, YouTube and other open platforms are fair game for the bad guys.