Buying and selling stock online is big business. It also carries its own risks. And we don't mean the risk of doing bad investments; we mean losing access to your trading account because your computer got infected by a keylogger.
Take a case of Mr. Valery Maltsev from St. Petersburg.
Maltsev runs an investment company called Broco Investments (available online at www.brocompany.com).
Unfortunately (for him), Maltsev was yesterday charged by US Securities & Exchange commission.
They claim that Maltsev's extraordinary gains in thinly traded NASDAQ and NYSE stocks were not a coincidence. Apparently Maltsev used malware with keyloggers to gain access to other people's online trading accounts. With such accounts, he could buy stocks at inflated prices, and use his real account to sell the same stock, for instant gains.
Quoting from the SEC Complaint:
On December 21,2009, at 13:37, BroCo bought shares of Ameriserv Financial, Inc (ASRV) at a price of $1.51 per share. Approximately one minute later, three accounts at Scottrade were illegally accessed and used to purchase shares of ASRV at prices ranging from $1.545 to $1.828 per share. While this was happening, BroCo sold shares of ASRV at prices ranging from $1.70 to $1.80 per share, finishing at 13:52. By trading shares of ASRV within minutes of unauthorized trading through the compromised accounts, Maltsev and BroCo grossed $141,500 in approximately fifteen minutes, realizing a net profit of $17,760.
Here's the stock chart for Ameriserv Financial. You can clearly see the unusually high trading levels on December 21st.
SEC claims that overall, Maltsev made more than $250,000. More details in the original SEC Complaint (PDF file).
And this is not the first time we've seen this. There was a very similar case in 2006, where Mr. Jevgeny Gashichev was running a fake Estonian company called Grand Logistics.
His tactic was almost identical: he used keyloggers and phishing attacks to gain access to stock trading passwords, inflated the price of a penny stocks and cashed in.
The SEC claims that Gashichev made more than $350,000. Again, more details in the original SEC Complaint (PDF file).