No Free Lunch in Spam

You might call them the Dogs of the Dogs. Wall Street has saluted them with a raised hind leg, and they languish in over-the-counter kennels where there are thousands of better managed companies that a thoughtful, intelligent investor would, after careful inspection, prefer to adopt.

But maybe you don't always inspect so carefully. And look at them: Those poor, neglected mongrels are hungry for your attention -- or even better, your money. Luckily, there is someone who wants to introduce you to them.

Sure, it's an anonymous someone, a person so desperate to hide his identity he's forged the email headers. Maybe it's just a Good Samaritan so humble he wants to perform his virtuous acts in secret? Well, he certainly believes in these dogs. Just listen to this: "Possibly the drug discovery of the decade!" Or this: "Will grow like Wal-Mart and produce even greater shareholder profits!"

Sound familiar? Unless you've taken extraordinary measures to keep your email address private, you've received a blizzard of these stock pitches. You'd think a "stock of the decade" would come ... well ... once every 10 years. Yet I've been graciously informed of five of them this week alone. Like me, you probably filter or delete them all.

One guy, Joshua Cyr, didn't delete them. He didn't invest in any of them either, but he did add 1,000 shares of each spam-touted stock to a mock portfolio and then monitored them for a few months. Through May and June, Cyr added 37 stocks and decided that was a good-enough sampling, even though the spam kept flooding him with even more once-in-a-lifetime, ground-floor opportunities -- 955 spams at last count, he says.

That Cyr's spam portfolio, which he maintains on a Web site he created called, hasn't done terribly well isn't at all a surprise. What is interesting, however, is just how amazingly bad it's performed.

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