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What is 'Pump And Dump'

Pump and dump is a scheme that attempts to boost the price of a stock through recommendations based on false, misleading or greatly exaggerated statements. The perpetrators of this scheme, who already have an established position in the company's stock, sell their positions after the hype has led to a higher share price. This practice is illegal based on securities law and can lead to heavy fines.

BREAKING DOWN 'Pump And Dump'

Pump and dump schemes were traditionally done through cold calling. With the advent of the internet, this illegal practice has become even more prevalent. These schemes usually target micro- and small-cap stocks, as they are the easiest to manipulate. Due to the small float of these types of stocks, it does not take a lot of new buyers to push a stock higher.

Boiler Room Tactics

The pump and dump scheme formed the central theme of two popular movies, "Boiler Room" and "The Wolf of Wall Street," both of which featured a warehouse full of telemarketing stockbrokers pitching penny stocks. In each case, the brokerage firm was a market maker and held a large volume of stock in companies with highly questionable prospects. The firms' leaders incentivized their brokers with high commissions and bonuses for placing the stock in as many customer accounts as possible. In doing so, the brokers were pumping up the price through huge volume selling. Once the selling volume reached critical mass with no more buyers, the firm dumped its shares for a huge profit. This drove the stock price down, often below the original selling price, resulting in big losses for the customers because they could not sell their shares in time.

Pump and Dump 2.0

The same scheme can be perpetrated by anyone with access to an online trading account and the ability to convince other investors to buy a stock that is supposedly ready to take off. The schemer can get the action going by buying heavily into a stock that trades on low volume, which usually pumps up the price. The price action induces other investors to buy heavily, pumping the share price even higher. At any point when the schemer feels the buying pressure is ready to fall off, he can dump his shares for a big profit.

Claims about how a stock is set to break out should be met with a considerable amount of caution. Always do your own research in a stock before making an investment.

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