Spammers charged for pump and dump scam

A US couple have been charged by federal regulators with making $1m through a fraudulent spam campaign.

Jeffrey Stone and his wife Janette Diller Stone face a civil fraud action from the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) after their 'pump-and-dump' scam was exposed.

The pair are accused of buying 288 million shares in wireless technology groupWebSky and then artificially inflating the stock price through a web-fuelled rumour campaign.

According to the SEC, spam emails sent by the Stones stated that WebSky was looking forward to annual revenue of more than $40m because of a successful venture in Argentina. In reality WebSky was a start-up company with no revenues.

The emails caused the firm's stock price to rise by more than 300%, according to the SEC, with 234 million shares being traded. WebSky had tried to stop the Stones from sending the emails, and told them that the Argentinean deal was not viable.

"Pump-and-dump stock campaigns work by spammers purchasing stock at a cheap price and then artificially inflating its price by encouraging others to purchase more - often by spamming 'good news' about the company to others," said Graham Cluley, senior technology consultant for security vendor Sophos.

"Stock spam is becoming increasingly attractive to internet criminals because of the large amounts of money that can be generated. Private investors need to be wary of believing financial advice they receive in their inbox, because it could be designed purely to benefit the criminals who spammed it out."