Saturday, June 30, 2012

A Bad VIBE from Vidable

There is a real Web site called vidable.com. It has some videos on it. Sort of. They are actually on YouTube and just embedded on the Vidable site. What Vidable purports to do is make it easy for you to find coupon deals in your local area, actually see video from the merchant, and look at ratings before you decide to buy. They have a video to explain how it all works. Which is not, so far as I've seen, how it actually works and, to be perfectly honest, it's an incredibly cheesy video.

I tried looking at the channel for restaurants, for example, letting it think that my current location was Deerfield, NH (which is actually where my ISP is), and got one video. Of a culinary instructor from Vancouver, BC, Canada. Yeah, really local.

So how did I run across Vidable in the first place? Because in the last couple of days I've gotten no fewer than six emails touting its stock, VIBE (OTC). I am in no position to invest, of course, having just spent most of my allowance for the month on the props for my upcoming film shoot, but when you're blitzed with this much spam in a couple of days for the same thing, it kind of piques your curiosity. Well, at least it piques my curiosity.

So, what is Vidable all about? I can't say with certainty, but I'm pretty sure what it is. And so, if you've never heard of it, I'd like to introduce you to the concept of "Pump and Dump."

In the classic pump and dump scheme, you would get a message on your answering machine or voice mail giving you a stock tip, usually on an obscure penny stock (that is, a stock that trades for less than a dollar a share), and giving someone else's name as the intended recipient of the message. This was designed to make it sound as though you were accidentally getting an inside stock tip. If enough people fall for this and buy the stock (for the stock is real), the price of the stock will go artificially higher, until the pumpers, who already own the majority of shares, becoming dumpers, selling off their shares all at once.

At which time the stock crashes and becomes worthless, but not before the dumpers have made a killing, and killed your investment. Kind of sounds like mortgage-backed securities, but on a much smaller scale.

The modern version, via email, has some of the same earmarks. For example, none of the email addresses that show in the header are mine. In every email, the TO: field has my name, but at a different domain. These are legitimate domains (I checked), and so it makes the whole thing sound as if it might be real.

The things that bothers me most about this is that I can find no simple way to report this scam to the authority who has the power to prosecute the perpetrators: the Securities and Exchange Commission. If you look on the agency's Web page, there's information aimed at brokers, institutional investors, and advisors, but not consumers.

I guess in the world of finance, even penny-ante finance, Wall Street counts, and we don't.



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