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Author Topic: Stock spam is back  (Read 1162 times)

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Stock Spam

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Stock spam is back
« on: December 15, 2009, 08:01:06 AM »
For a long time, one of the core features of this site was the index of recently-spammed stocks. At the peak, we once saw 18 distinct spam-advertised stocks promoted in a single day, and for a long time 5 or 6 symbols a day was common. Then all that changed. Stock spam took a body blow. While it would be nice to think that our documentation played a part in raising public awareness and reducing the profitability of stock spam, the truth is that the sharp fall-off was almost certainly due to two high profile arrests. Following the July 2007 arrest of Darrel and Jack Uselton, and the subsequent arrest of arrest of Alan Ralsky in early 2008, stock spam fell off a cliff. It's hard to be sure, but just looking at the graphs, it certainly looked to me as if the Feds had got their men.

The spammed stocks list became something of an embarrassment. People would write in saying "I see you're no longer updating the stock list", to which I could only reply that it wasn't that we'd stopped updating it, it was that we simply weren't seeing any stock spam. Other people would report that they were still getting stock spam, but whoever the spammers were sending to, they certainly weren't hitting any of our trap addresses. At the peak, the presumed authors of the stock spam flood (Alan Ralsky, cough, Darrel and Jack Uselton, cough) were hitting dozens of addresses that we monitor on a daily basis. Those addresses are still out there and there are too many of them for the stock spammers to have somehow linked them to this site and blacklisted them. They just weren't getting hit. The only conclusion that we could come to was that stock spammers were now building their lists in a very different way.

My guess is that the people who were still seeing stock spam had exposed their addresses in some other way, probably by opting in to an apparently legitimate list or using the addresses in a particular context. I did a few experiments, posting to investment-related forums using newly-created trap addresses, but still failed to generate any response. From time to time, one of our old traps would register a hit or two, but sustained, high-volume campaigns seemed to be a thing of the past. From where we were sitting, it looked like stock spam was all but over.

But greed springs eternal. Over the last three days, we've seen a new burst of stock spam activity. The new spam run, promoting Fero Industries Inc (FROI.OB) has all the signs of a 'classic' spam stock run. The spammers are hitting multiple addresses (three of our trap addresses are currently registering hits) several times a day, they're pumping out different forms of the message in an attempt to dodge filtering, and they're using what appears to be a botnet to send their messages. It's like everything old is new again.

So it turns out stock spam isn't dead after all, and someone new seems to be getting into the game. Let's just hope that the authorities who broke the back of the last stock spam wave haven't gone away either, and that the new players will soon find themselves in a position to trade tips and insights directly with Darrel, Jack and Alan.

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