1. The Pump and Dump
The pump and dump is one of the easiest and most common ways of taking money away from unsuspecting investors. Although it is illegal, the use of the pump and dump has actually increased because the Internet has made it possible to reach millions more people.
Here’s how the pump and dump works:
First, company insiders try to convince outsiders to buy a stock, usually the stock of a small over-the-counter company (Penny stocks). Investors are led to believe that this is a “once-in-a-lifetime” opportunity to make a small fortune. The fraudsters will pump up interest in the stock by sending messages through Internet chat rooms, or posting overly optimistic press releases.
Before the Internet, pump and dumpers used to call people on the telephone (often called Boiler Rooms). The idea is to artificially pump up the price of a stock by spreading false news. The stock price rises because of increased buying and speculation, not because of anything positive happening in the company.
As the stock goes higher, those with inside knowledge are prepared for the “dump.” As more people buy shares of the stock, the insiders sell all their shares for a huge profit. Eventually, the truth comes out, and the stock price falls as more people sell. Guess who is left holding the shares of the now nearly worthless stock? You guessed it – the unsuspecting investors who bought into the hype. They probably thought the price could go higher, so they never sold their shares.
The pump and dump is one of the oldest and most effective scams. Usually, pump and dumps are used on small stocks selling below $1.00 a share because it is easier for pump-and-dumpers to manipulate the stock price with smaller stocks.
2. Insider Trading
There are actually two types of insider trading: legal and illegal.
Legal insider trading is that done by company employees (insiders) who file proper paperwork with the SEC before buying and selling shares in their company. These documents are available for viewing on the SEC Web site.
On the other hand, illegal insider trading occurs when company employees buy and sell stocks based on information that is not known to the public. For example, it’s illegal for the managers of XYZ Company to buy additional shares of stock in the company if they know that a revolutionary new product is about to be released. It’s even illegal for you to buy shares of stock in that situation if company insiders (perhaps your neighbor) tell you about it.
Do you think insider trading is common?
It certainly is. It occurs a lot more often than many people think. Every once in a while the SEC catches a celebrity just to make a point that it’s watching. Nevertheless, it’s my estimate that thousands of insiders are using information gleaned from the companies they work for to make profitable transactions. It’s an open secret that those in the know are trading stocks on inside information.