Pump-and-dump spammers are refining their tactics and marketing techniques in an attempt to drum up new business.
Junk mail scumbags are now targeting companies with offers to boost their stock prices in return for payment.
Pump-and-dump scams are email campaigns that seek to encourage armchair investors to sink their cash into particular firms' stock.
The goal is to quickly inflate interest in low-value stock with bogus insider info in order to ramp up share prices and sell at a profit before the inevitable crash and burn. Meanwhile those duped are left holding possibly worthless shares.
Most of these scams are thought to take place without the knowledge of firms that are the subject of the scams.
However, in a new twist seen in a junk mail campaign discovered by net security firm Sophos, scammers are telling companies that they can boost their own stock prices by up to 250 per cent within two to three weeks using junk mail.
The bogus offers even promise a one day free trial. Spam emails sent out as part of the campaign claim that the scammers will offer advice on future share price movements to investors, for a 30 per cent slice of supposed profits.
Sophos reports that pump-and-dump stock campaigns currently account for approximately 15 per cent of all spam, up from 0.8 percent in January 2005.
In related news, security experts have identified a "pump-and-dump" stock spam campaign that features an animated graphic to display a "subliminal" message to potential investors.
Spam messages seeking to pump up interest in a firm called Trimax display the animated message "Buy" every 15 seconds. By using images instead of text, junk mail messages might avoid detection by anti-spam filters that rely on the analysis of textual content alone.
The percentage of spam containing embedded images has risen sharply from 18.2 per cent in January to over 35 per cent last month, according to Sophos. ®