Be Alert When You Receive Spam E-mail or Faxes And When You See “Unsolicited Quotations” Posted for Stocks
Jan. 16, 2013
When you receive a spam e-mail or fax regarding a company’s stock, you should know right away that someone wants you to buy this stock. When you receive such spam, you should exercise extreme caution. The chances are that there may be very little current information publicly available about the company that you can review before making an informed decision whether to buy the stock. Such spam solicitations may be part of a fraudulent investment scheme. Spammers and fraudsters often count on investors to call their broker or place an on-line order for the hyped stock. Such an order may be reflected as an “unsolicited” quotation in the quotation service – which is a quotation reflecting an order that has not been solicited by the customer’s broker. So you should be cautious when you see quotes that are marked as “unsolicited” quotations, and make sure that you obtain current and accurate information about the company before making an investment decision.
"Spam" is mass electronic mail or junk email or faxes. Because spam is so cheap and easy to create, fraudsters increasingly use it to find investors for bogus investment schemes or to spread false information about a company. Spam allows the unscrupulous to target many more potential investors than cold calling or mass mailing. Using bulk e-mail and faxing programs, spammers can send personalized messages to thousands and even millions of individuals at a time. For more information, read our publication, Internet Fraud: How to Avoid Internet Investment Scams
When you see the word “unsolicited” as part of a stock quotation page on a website such as the Pink Sheets (marked as “unsolicited”) or OTC Bulletin Board (marked as “U”), you should be aware that the quote is not necessarily a market maker’s own quotation reflecting a price based on market conditions or current information about the company being quoted. Instead, it is a quotation that a market maker posts to reflect an unsolicited order by a customer. So, if you and anyone calls his or her broker, or places an on-line order for the stock – without the broker’s promotion of the stock to that individual – that order would be posted at the customer’s own designated price and marked as an “unsolicited” quotation. It is important to be aware that the individual placing such an order may not be relying on current information about the company – which is vitally important before making an informed investment decision. The individual may unwittingly be relying on bogus pricing and false promotional information from spam email or faxes. Worse yet the individual placing the order – while appearing as an unsolicited member of the general public – may actually be in league with the fraudsters. That’s frequently how the fraudsters get the public market started out of the blue, and how they are able to generate the appearance of investor interest and trading volume. So when you see the word “unsolicited” in reference to the quotation’s status, you should be cautious and find out whether there is current information about the company before you buy or sell the stock.
If a company’s securities are listed on a stock exchange, the company is subject to certain reporting requirements – including making audited financial statements available to the public. If a company’s securities are quoted on the OTC Bulletin Board, the NASD requires the company to comply with certain reporting requirements. Companies with securities quoted on the Pink Sheets, however, are not necessarily subject to reporting requirements.
In addition, companies may have quotations for their securities posted on a quotation service such as the Pink Sheets or the OTC Bulletin Board, as long as either:
(1) A broker has gathered and reviewed information about the company, and has demonstrated it did so to the NASD; or
(2) The broker submits a quotation for posting that represents that the customer’s interest in the security was not solicited by that broker. These quotations thus are marked as “unsolicited” quotations on a stock quotation page, such as the Pink Sheets or OTC Bulletin Board.
In short, if you are interested in a stock that you learned about through spam e-mails or faxes, you should ask your broker whether the company is subject to reporting requirements and has made current reports available. In addition, for stocks quoted on the Pink Sheets or OTC Bulletin Board, you should ask your broker whether any broker has done the requisite fact gathering on the stock (i.e., whether a Form 211 was filed for the company) – or whether quotations are being posted in the Pink Sheets on an “unsolicited” basis only. If the company’s stock is quoted on an “unsolicited” basis only, you may want to consider more carefully who was calling this security to your attention – particularly if the source is a spam email or fax - and what information that source is using to calculate the price of the quote. If the source is spam, be alert!
 In general, broker-dealers seeking to commence quotations in Pink Sheets and OTC Bulletin Board securities must demonstrate that they have gathered accurate and current information about an issuer through their disclosures on Form 211, which is filed with and reviewed by the NASD, and by complying with SEC Rule 15c2-11 and equivalent NASD rules.
 The OTC Bulletin Board and the Pink Sheets also post information about how securities are quoted, including information about unsolicited orders. See, for example, the OTC Bulletin Board’s website at http://www.otcbb.com/aboutotcbb/howtoquote.stm, and the Pink Sheets’ website at http://www.pinksheets.com/otcguide/brokers_index.jsp. The OTC Bulletin Board also posts warnings and information about spam at http://www.otcbb.com/help/spam.stm.