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No Free Lunch in Spam

It would have cost Cyr $17,405 to buy positions in those 37 stocks. As of Wednesday, the portfolio's value was a life-changing $9,574. He'd lost close to half of his mock money in the span of a summer.

"I would have thought they might have broken even," says Cyr, who admits he's not a hard-core stock investor. He owns one stock, and most of his recent investments have been in real estate.

But Cyr is a Web developer at Portsmouth, N.H.-based Savvy Software, so it took him an hour or two to set up his portfolio and Web site. And his email is openly posted on the Web. "I get a lot of spam, so I figured I'd be a good test case to see what would happen to the average Joe if he followed the advice of these hot stock tips," he says.

Nearly two-thirds of the hot stocks -- 24 in total -- have lost more than half of their value since Cyr started tracking them. Only three have appreciated in value. That's an 8% chance of seeing your investment in spam stocks grow. Not even pitchers in the American League have batting averages that low.

Six of the touted stocks, however, lost more than 90% of their market value: First Canadian American Holding Corp. (FCDH), Phoenix Interests (PHXI), Executive Hospitality (EHPC), Martin Nutraceuticals (MTNC), My Pool Leaks (MPLK) and Nomad International (NDIN).

We've all heard that we should perform due diligence before investing in a stock, and these stocks are an entertaining reminder of why. A cursory glance at their details opens up a field of red flags.

Take Phoenix Interests. It's recent SEC filing includes lines like, "Our revenues for the three months ended June 30, 2005 were $0 as compared to $0 for the same period in 2004." The company explains that this is because, in 2003, it "discontinued all pinhooking activities." Instead, it set up a Web site called "www.Barn66.com" and when that didn't sweep in revenue, it set up "www.BetBarn66.com."

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