Market Manipulation (“Pump and Dump”) Fraud

Market manipulation fraud—commonly referred to as a “pump and dump”—creates artificial buying pressure for a targeted security, generally a low-trading volume issuer in the over-the-counter securities market largely controlled by the fraud perpetrators. This artificially-increased trading volume has the effect of artificially increasing the price of the targeted security (i.e., the “pump”), which is rapidly sold off into the inflated market for the security by the fraud perpetrators (i.e., the “dump”). This results in illicit gains for the perpetrators and losses for innocent third-party investors. Typically, the increased trading volume is generated by inducing unwitting investors to purchase shares of the targeted security through false or deceptive sales practices and/or public information releases. 

A modern variation on this scheme involves largely foreign-based computer criminals gaining unauthorized access to the online brokerage accounts of unsuspecting victims in the United States. These victim accounts are then utilized to engage in coordinated online purchases of the targeted security to affect the pump portion of a manipulation, while the fraud perpetrators sell their pre-existing holdings in the targeted security into the inflated market to complete the dump.

Tips for Avoiding Market Manipulation Fraud:

  • Don’t believe the hype.
  • Find out where the stock trades.
  • Independently verify claims.
  • Research the opportunity.
  • Beware of high-pressure pitches.
  • Always be skeptical.