A call from the boiler room

Being knee deep in online mischief all day I sometimes forget that most of the online attacks are simply extensions of offline ones. The Nigerian scam has been performed via fax and (snail) mail for decades now – I even got a 419 scam by postcard a year back that made me feel very special that someone will waste a stamp on me.

Spam is obviously just an online extension of junk mail, only in a different order of magnitude, and same goes for phishing compared to identity theft. But there is one fraud scheme I’m especially fond of – ‘pump-n-dump’, where you get a spam email about a stock that’s about to go up (“skyrocket”), hoping enough people will buy it and make it go up so that the person who initiated the attack can sell quantities of this penny stock and leave the victims with a worthless piece of paper.

The ‘pump-n-dump’ is an extension of phone-based fraud that was featured in the Sopranos (with Chris’s crew running the scam) and outlined nicely in “Boiler Room”. Wikipedia has a nice description on the scheme and origin of the term.

The reason I’m reminded of this is because I actually got a call from a boiler room, sorry, from a law office with offices in Park Avenue and London. The call could have been a scripted audition to “Boiler Room 2″ to play the part of the junior associate creating warm leads to Ben Affleck’s gang. It included everything to the immortal “I will only call you if we have something really good” and “we might have something for you in 2 weeks”. Amazingly enough they did have something really good for me and exactly two weeks later I got a call from the Vin-Diesel wannabe following up on the warm lead created by the associate. Unfortunately this time I didn’t have the time to play along so I don’t know if he would have told me there’s a maximum for new clients and 5,000 shares is as much as he can sell me…

My only complaint now is that my spam filter who is doing such a good job filtering pump-n-dumps is unable to handle human conversations and filter boiler room calls. Actually, there’s one more complaint – why is it I always get stuck in the Boiler Room-like movies instead of getting a visit from Halle Berry a-la swordfish?…

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