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The Almighty Buck

The SEC and Fake Investment Sites 473

An anonymous reader sent in: "Our web-based challenge for the day: find the SEC's fake investment sites! The SEC claims to have seeded the web with fake investment sites in order to teach naive web users and investors about the dangers of believing all you read and investing without research. These sites have telltale signs of online investment fraud, and if people manage to overlook or ignore those issues and attempt to invest money, informs them that they have made an unwise decision. The SEC says that these sites are intended to encourage wise investing decisions, or in more casual terms, to attempt to slap fools upside the head with a cluestick before they lose their money in a real scam. It's an interesting use of the web by a government-related agency."
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The SEC and Fake Investment Sites

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  • by Em Emalb ( 452530 ) <ememalb@GINSBERGgmail.com minus poet> on Wednesday January 30, 2002 @03:40PM (#2926595) Homepage Journal

    What a cool way to teach the less-informed among us not to trust everything just because it's on the web. Now, if we could get websites out there that ask for personal info to do the same, ie:

    Enter your credit card info here:


    No Idiot, this site is about my dog skippy, there is no need for you to hand this over. Now get off the web and find a clue. (Hint: your 10 year old child is more web-savvy than you)
  • Here's one! (Score:5, Funny)

    by daeley ( 126313 ) on Wednesday January 30, 2002 @03:42PM (#2926619) Homepage
    • by WillSeattle ( 239206 ) on Wednesday January 30, 2002 @04:11PM (#2926854) Homepage

      Nah, that's the one the White House put up.

      We're looking for the SEC ones.
    • Just looking over the 'investor relations' page. Looks like they recently changed their stock symbol [marketwatch.com].
      • Re:You want funny? (Score:3, Informative)

        by EisPick ( 29965 )
        Looks like they recently changed their stock symbol

        That's because they got kicked off the NYSE. Only NYSE stocks have ticker symbols of 3 or fewer characters. As an OTC stock, they had to pick a new symbol.
        • Re:You want funny? (Score:3, Interesting)

          by mmontour ( 2208 )
          That's because they got kicked off the NYSE. Only NYSE stocks have ticker symbols of 3 or fewer characters. As an OTC stock, they had to pick a new symbol.

          They (ENRNQ) only got to pick the first 4 letters of their symbol - the "Q" suffix indicates the company is involved in bankruptcy proceedings. There's a table of codes here [fool.com] if anyone's interested.
    • Re:Here's one! (Score:5, Informative)

      by Azog ( 20907 ) on Wednesday January 30, 2002 @05:25PM (#2927306) Homepage
      Actually, the first thing that came to my mind was:

      Finally! A real explanation for ZeoSync!

      (For those who haven't been keeping up, ZeoSync is the company that claims to have broken / bypassed Shannon's laws of information entropy to create some sort of encoding or compression that can compress random data. Except that they don't call it compression - they call it "Information Crystals" or something equally stupid.)

      I asked for and got ZeoSync's Investors Package, and it truly has some strange stuff in it... they are suing some previous employees, have some financial stuff that looks weird even to me (I know very little about corporate finance), and those computer scientists that are so prominently featured on their web site are not actually associated with the company - ZeoSync just paid them (an unspecified amount) for some sort of unspecified consulting. Basically meaningless.

      They admit in the fine print that the alleged "technology" has never been demoed to anyone outside the company...

      Really, I would not be surprised if ZeoSync was an elaborate ruse to teach gullible investors a lesson.
  • by molo ( 94384 ) on Wednesday January 30, 2002 @03:43PM (#2926634) Journal
    Shouldn't be too hard to find.

    ALEXANDRIA, VA 22312

    Domain Name: MCWHORTLE.COM

    Administrative Contact, Billing Contact:
    SEC (VMGSFHPWCO) webmaster@mcwhortle.com
    ALEXANDRIA, VA 22312
    202 824 5151 fax: 202 504 2477
    • by ftobin ( 48814 ) on Wednesday January 30, 2002 @04:02PM (#2926781) Homepage

      On their About [mcwhortle.com] page, they have an image of their building [mcwhortle.com]. The sign on the building is a sorry attempt at making it look seamless.

      I wonder which building is pictured, anyways. Maybe all the SEC's 'scam sites' use the same buildling.

      Doing a Google search for 'mcwhorgle' [mcwhortle.com], one finds out that the SEC even got Yahoo to have a length article [yahoo.com] on the SEC pre-approving its IPO. Interesting that they put that much work into it.

      • there is a video feed of the McWhortle CEO on the Yahoo - http://www.videonewswire.com/event.asp?id=2952
      • by ajs ( 35943 )
        You've got to understand, this isn't "Yahoo". You're just looking at PR Newswire, which is a dumping ground for anyone to send in advertisements (er, "press-releases") for a fee.

        This is one of the many tactics that I would *expect* of a competent scammer.
        • by jesser ( 77961 )
          I find it disturbing that Yahoo includes these press releases in its biz.yahoo.com site. Until now, I assumed that if Yahoo was a reliable news source. I'm aware that press releases usually have heavy bias, but I would expect Yahoo to verify that the company exists and that claims of facts such as "SEC 'Pre-Approves' IPO" were actually true.

          If Yahoo wants to protect its reputation while running unverified press releases, it should put text near the top of each PRNewswire article saying "PRNewswire does not run background checks on companies, nor does it check claims of facts for validity."
    • by CMiYC ( 6473 ) on Wednesday January 30, 2002 @04:10PM (#2926848) Homepage
      Well yeah for you, me, and most of the slashdot population. We know what whois is... in fact, if anyone is like me, they do a whois whenever something seem fishy about a website. However, what about some joe-shmo looking for someplace to put his money? He's still trying to figure out why he can't get the stock symbol for the internet company.
    • Well, I wouldn't have found it if you hadn't pointed out the domain, but their product info is a dead giveaway:

      • Now, for the first time, McWhortle Enterprises is offering a product to the general public: the new Bio-Hazard Alert Detector. Running quietly on two double-A batteries, the Bio-Hazard Alert Detector emits an audible beep and flashes when in the presence of all known bio-hazards. The Bio-Hazard Alert Detector, measuring only 3 by 7 inches, is small enough to slip into a man's jacket pocket, a woman's purse or a child's backpack.
      Utter bogosity. My employer has been working with ORNL for a decade on bringing portable chem and bio agent detectors to market, and even after a decade, they're barely small enough to fit in a trunk. And they require a lot of power... two 12V car batteries. Not to mention that no single sensor technology is suitable for detecting all agents...

      Also, this should set off anyone's alarms:

      • It can detect even the finest-milled, weapons-grade biohazards from 50 feet, long before the risk of inhalation or cutaneous infection, by testing for the distinctive surface leptins. Proven effective to just .02 microns per cubic meter of air,
      First of all, the implied sensitivity requires an in situ device, making detection from 50 feet impossible. But the real zit on this thing's nose is the laughable misuse of units... microns per unit volume? That reduces to nothing per unit area -- pure nonsense. I've seen better technobabble on episodes of ST:TNG.

      But it may be fun to float the URL around the company here and see who spots the fnord first!

  • that I can invest some Monopoly [monopoly.com] &reg money?
  • First Clue (Score:2, Funny)

    by chukm ( 548303 )
    I can picture the site now: Todays' hot stock pick- Buy 1 get one free for ENRON shares.
  • One one hand... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by ZuG ( 13394 ) on Wednesday January 30, 2002 @03:44PM (#2926644) Homepage Journal
    On one hand, it's kind of nice that the SEC is taking steps to protect people from these kind of scams. It's never pretty when people get ripped off by companies that fabricate stories to potential investors enron .

    On the other hand, though, it's kind of sad that there are people who actually invest in this kind of stuff. One would think that people would be (more) careful when there is real money involved. There are plenty of brokers out there, and while they may not give the *best* advice, they certainly wouldn't direct innocent people toward investments that are ovbiously scams. If you don't know what you're doing with your money, then take it to someone who does. If you don't, you're just asking for trouble.

    On some level, people affected by these scams get what they have coming to them.

  • Ya know (Score:5, Funny)

    by wiredog ( 43288 ) on Wednesday January 30, 2002 @03:45PM (#2926650) Journal
    Slashdotting the SEC's just gotta violate some law...

    SEC Computers Catch Fire After During Hacker Attack

    By Joe Snuffy

    Associated Press Writer

    Wednesday, January 30, 2002; 2:45 P.M.

    The SEC headquarters was evacuated today after a form of the denial of service hacking attack, commonly known as "slashdotting" caused their servers to halt and catch fire. The FBI refuses to confirm that it may be seeking one Rob "Commander Taco" Malda for questioning in this terrorist attack on America's financial structure.

  • Design a website with "telltale signs of online investment fraud" and watch how many idiots still try to invest thru it. Then have a warning about how they could have been scammed, but they are lucky Big Brother was looking out for them, and it's not real. Then use the info they gave you to drain their bank accounts, and send an email to them, From: SEC, saying so long, and thanks for all the fish.

    If they even comprehend what happened, they will blame the government, since we all know it's full of crooks anyway.
  • by backtick ( 2376 ) on Wednesday January 30, 2002 @03:46PM (#2926656) Homepage Journal
    http://www.gppf.org/events/oswindle.htm [gppf.org] Shows the FTC doing the exact same thing and discussing it in the 1990's. Sheesh, stuff from 3-5 years ago isn't exactly new :-)
  • Great (Score:4, Insightful)

    by jd142 ( 129673 ) on Wednesday January 30, 2002 @03:47PM (#2926665) Homepage
    I love it. It is a great way to teach people not to trust everything they read on the net. And WhiteKnight, all the info is made up. The SEC made sure that you can't invest in the company or use the made up info to actually lose money. That was in the article.

    We have often joked about doing something similar with viruses. Setting up a hotmail account and sending all the user in our department an attachment. The attachment would write to a log on our network and put up a dialog box that said something like "So you just ran a program from some joker on the internet. You've just lost all your work and your boss has been notified."

    We haven't done it of course, but we dream.
  • WHOIS database (Score:2, Informative)

    by Brian See ( 11276 )

    % whois mcwhortle.com


    Administrative Contact, Billing Contact:
    SEC (VMGSFHPWCO) webmaster@mcwhortle.com
    202 824 5151 fax: 202 504 2477

    But then again, I suppose that anyone savvy enough to run a WHOIS search on the domain would also click through to the "If you were serious about responding to this, you're an idiot" page.
  • old news (Score:2, Offtopic)

    by devleopard ( 317515 )
    I submitted this on Monday (I mentioned it on my website) I was logged in, not anonymous. So much for logged in users taking precedence over anonymous users :-)
    • I submitted this on Monday (I mentioned it on my website) I was logged in, not anonymous. So much for logged in users taking precedence over anonymous users :-)

      I quit submitting stories to slashdot years ago, when similar things would happen. The submission process is straightforward enough, but the editorial process is about as transparent as crude oil on a moonless night. Who knows why stories get rejected one day, resubmitted and accepted another, with the latecommer getting the credit. Who knows why a site which purports to be pro free software/open source/whatever dumps stories of technical interest in favor of promotions ... excuse me ... reviews of media releases (DVDs) and movies that encourage free software enthusiasts to go out and put money in the pockets of an industry bent on hamstringing the internet and legislating free software (and the tools to make it) out of existence.

      I gave up trying to figure this out years ago, and now content myself to just reading whatever interesting stuff happens to make it through the filter, and posting an occasional diatribe or two.

      I recommend anyone discontent with this sort of thing to do the same. It will entail much less frustration and heartache for you, and if enough people do it perhaps the editors will take the hint and become more fair in how they select stories and attribute them. In the meantime, life is too short, so don't let this sort of irritation get to you.
      • by d-e-w ( 173678 ) on Wednesday January 30, 2002 @04:52PM (#2927088)
        I gave up trying to figure this out years ago, and now content myself to just reading whatever
        interesting stuff happens to make it through the filter, and posting an occasional diatribe or two.

        The reasoning (or lack there of) behind what stories get accepted or rejected from Slashdot is not actually all that hard to understand. Like anything in PR, it's a crapshoot.

        Here are my views (I always submit as AC, due to some particular personal reasons, but have a fairly decent acceptance rate.)

        Submitting a story to Slashdot involves creating a mini press release. You are promoting your "version" of the story, so that it gets chosen over all other "versions." Creating an effective press release is frickin' hard. I've seen cases in which a 2-page, double-spaced press release took two-three weeks to produce.

        As with any press release, you increase your chances by focusing on certain aspects.

        1. Engaging language. You are selling your summary to the editor who reviews it. They probably go through dozens of submissions a day, and yours has to catch their eye and engage their attention.

        2. Interesting topic, which could give rise to a ongoing discussion. When looking back on most of my failed submissions, they did not meet #2. If it is interesting, but probably won't create much of a discussion, it is worthless for Slashdot's purposes. This is not a news site, it is a discussion site. Even if you believe it would generate a discussion, posing a jumping off point for that discussion increases your chances.

        But still, things will be rejected, as thousands of press releases around the world are thrown into thousands of trash cans every day. Other versions of the same thing may be accepted because the language/discussion points appeal more to the editor who reviews it. This can be a problem at times, because an incorrect and more controversial version which provides a jumping off point for argument will probably be accepted over a summary which is technically correct and dry. But this is not a problem with this site alone--it is a problem throughout the news world. Where do you think that the news sites get some of their incorrect yet controversial information about technical issues? Badly written press releases whose information may be incorrect, but has the "gotcha" factor.

        And there's always the editor factor. Maybe editor A couldn't give a damn about the subject and rejected submission A because it didn't interest him. Then submission B comes around a day later and is reviewed by editor B, who loves the information provided. Therefore, B is accepted over A. This too, is not a problem limited to this news site. Once more than one person is involved consistancy goes straight out the window, no matter how hard you strive for it.

        Submitting to Slashdot is a crapshoot. There are ways that you can improve your odds, but if your summary is reviewed by an editor who believes it is uninteresting, or believes it will not stimulate discussion, it gets rejected.
    • man, that sig has got to piss off the monkeys.
      "UUu ahh uuu AAAaaaaAAhhhhEEEE"
      translation:"we would never write that crap, speaking of which, I'm now going to fling some at you!"
  • will be when someone "discovers" one of the fake sites, submits it to slashdot, it gets posted (of course), and the comments start rolling in.

    How long will it take before someone comments that its fake. We're quick to point out Xbox emulator fakes when we see them, but would we necessarily discover the nonexistance of a company when its intent is to defraud and not just to boost the false ego of a few misguided geeks.

    So yeah, go find them. And when you find one, don't claim you found one, submit it to slashdot instead. Take the joke all the way! :)

  • by Brownstar ( 139242 ) on Wednesday January 30, 2002 @03:50PM (#2926689)
    Pre-IPO Investment Oversubscribed!

    McWhortle Enterprises has had to stop accepting investors for Stage 1 of its Pre-IPO investment after the program was over-subscribed by nearly 200%. Because of the enormous demand, we will, for a very limited time, accept new investors into this program.

    Darn it, I was all ready to sign up, but I guess the rest of the slashdot community got to it before me.
  • The war (Score:5, Funny)

    by Syberghost ( 10557 ) <syberghost@sybergho[ ]com ['st.' in gap]> on Wednesday January 30, 2002 @03:52PM (#2926696) Homepage
    Funny, Bush didn't mention the increased funding for the War on Stupidity last night...
  • If you look at the testimonials [mcwhortle.com], it reads just like the typical MLM/"Not MLM!" scam spams that I've been getting lately, complete with the vague (un)identifying info. But this really begs the question: Why are people stupid enough to fall for these scams in the first place? I am strongly convinced that a majority of Americans are completely braindead.
  • ba-dum ching!
  • Here's Another One!! (Score:3, Informative)

    by dloolb ( 159254 ) on Wednesday January 30, 2002 @03:53PM (#2926705) Homepage
    Just check Google for matching phrases! http://www.wemarket4u.net/prosperity/ [wemarket4u.net]
  • I want in! (Score:4, Funny)

    by (void*) ( 113680 ) on Wednesday January 30, 2002 @03:53PM (#2926714)
    Imagine getting paid by the SEC to make up stuff about a non-existent company. Where do I sign up?
  • OK, who pays for the development and hosting of these web sites? I assume it is my tax dollars being used to tell some gullable shmuck how gullable they really are. My guess is they don't learn anything from this, or worse yet, they think they've learned something but really haven't.
    • Lol. I love people who define taxes as:

      Money I pay to my government that I'd better be paid back in full for.

      Dummy. Taxes are to distribute the wealth of your economy to those less fortunate. Yes, people with less brains than you constitutes those less fortunate.
      • Ignoramus,
        If you are implying that I define taxes as "Money I pay to my government that I'd better be paid back in full for" you are wrong.

        Here is how I see it:

        "Money that I pay to the government that should be used in a responsible and helpful way... not wasted."

        I can think of many better ways to help the less fortunate than building websites to try to trick people. Besides, the neediest people in our contry don't even have internet access, and don't have enough money to consider investing in some bogus company.

        • Good point, although I'd charge that you don't neccessarily know better ways to help your country than your government. I'm just saying that it's a pretty unfounded complaint given the scope of the purpose of taxes, and the complexities inherent in distributing them in such a way that the government won't be the recipiant of glib remarks like the parent post.

          I realize, of course, that this is an extremely unpopular point of view these days ... :)

          I'd be intersted to see ya throw up some numbers or supporting arguments in terms of how much money the SEC gets from public taxes, and how they go about spending that money.

          BTW, stopping investment fraud is pretty paramount to an efficient capitalist system, so if you're down with fast-n-furious capitalism (a system who's sole purpose is to promote and motivate the efficient use of resources), the goal of this project is in everyone's interest, not just the dumb (or gullible, or whatever) people.

          Then again, if you're down for regulated markets, I agree that the money could be better spent on developing laws that would cut down on the ease of committing investment fraud in the first place.

          We're not likely to see it, as such regulations slow trade and business (gasp!), but it would certainly result in less buyers having to beware, IMHO.
      • by SnakeStu ( 60546 ) on Wednesday January 30, 2002 @05:01PM (#2927159) Homepage

        Dummy. Taxes are to distribute the wealth of your economy to those less fortunate.

        OK, probably a troll, but just in case you're really that misguided... Let's just presume that your idealistic notion is accurate (although it's demonstrably false; see below, where this rather-long response ties back to the SEC site topic). What are the real implications? The surface implication for those who can't think more deeply is that taxes are a fairy tale come true -- steal from the rich and give to the poor, very Robin Hood. But how noble is that really? There are some deeper implications that many taxpayers might find immoral, such as:

        • Promotion of Force/Violence. Robin Hood is holding an arrow to your head with the force of a bent bow behind it. The more modern picture is the government enforcing taxes at gunpoint (try not paying your taxes and resisting arrest when they come for you -- the guns will eventually be made visible, whether during the arrest or carried by guards after you've been dragged off to a detention facility).
        • Promotion of Sloth. By rewarding most those who contribute least and punishing those who contribute the most, there is no more logical action than to cease to contribute. Yes, that means that the only logical route is to immediately stop contributing -- don't work another moment. The only reason people continue to work is emotional -- they have ethical problems with sloth, they don't want to be seen as freeloaders, etc. But the very system they support with their work promotes the vice (sloth) which they are loathe to accept for themselves.

        Actually I could go on but I'm on my lunch break and must wrap this up before it is time to go back "on the clock" to support those on welfare. (Actually, I'm being partially sarcastic; read on for the debunking of that notion, along with the debunking of your original idea about what taxes mean.)

        So if, as you incorrectly state, taxes are to take from the rich and give to the poor (where 'poor' -- according to you -- includes poor in mind as well as bank), this "noble" idea is only noble on the surface, and evil lurks not far beneath.

        Luckily, taxpayers can rest assured that taxes don't mean what you say they mean...

        ...but they should be made uneasy again by seeing, below, what they should mean versus what they do mean at present (speaking from the US perspective, to stay on topic of the SEC). By the way, what you implied matches neither what taxes are nor what they should be.

        I stated above that your concept of taxes is demonstrably false. How could that be demonstrated? Follow the bouncing penny! Follow the funds to see where they really go. The bulk of tax funds go to government programs that are ostensibly for the common good. Not the good of just those unwilling or unable to contribute to society and the economy, but everyone. (Maybe it's different where you are, but around here we don't have roads and highways set aside for 'poor' people only.)

        Had I not said "ostensibly [dictionary.com]," there would be no difference between what taxes are and what they should be. The difference is in the beneficiary. Ask yourself, who creates taxes (generally speaking; I realize there is some complexity, but it can be bypassed safely at the moment)? From an entirely selfish perspective, would it not make sense for taxes to benefit those who create them? Of course, our taxes don't go directly to our elected "representatives" (other than in the form of regularly-increased and already-very-large salaries), but taxes we pay do go, indirectly, to support the political careers of incumbents.

        This really should be obvious by now, but you might miss it, since you claim to believe in something that is obviously not the case. So let me illustrate: Pat Senator wants to be re-elected. Pat Senator knows that a certain government program for the "common" good is particularly good for constituents in the district responsible for that re-election. Pat Senator also knows that the program needs funding, and that the burden of funding for it can be spread over a much wider population than the Senator's constituents. Time for a new tax!

        Tax funds are only marginally used to "take from the rich and give to the poor." Vastly, they are used to support political careers, by supporting businesses that make campaign contributions and by supporting constituents who vote. So what should be for the common good, really is for the good of politicians.

        This isn't news, by the way. I'm not telling anybody anything they don't already know -- just what they might prefer to ignore.

        The question originally was, who pays for the SEC web sites? The implication, I believe, is why should taxpayers pay for these sites? It's a valid question -- for reasons already noted beyond the scope of my message, the SEC sites will do little or nothing to "help the poor." Are they part of a program to help the common good (really)? Are they part of a program that will help a politician's career? Or are they the result of a side-effect of a corrupt political system, that being insufficient "change control." In other words, perhaps they're just the result of somebody saying, "Hey, I've got an idea" and there being insufficient structure to prevent the idea from taking form without proof of validity.

        Regardless, it sounds like a government-spec government program: An ineffective use (a.k.a., waste) of resources.

        There goes my lunch hour...

        • by SirSlud ( 67381 ) on Wednesday January 30, 2002 @06:20PM (#2927638) Homepage
          Nice post. Well thought out and presented. For the sake of this argument, a wealthy person is anyone who can afford a house and car. What we might call the lower-middle class.

          Three comments:

          1. I didn't say this was the /only/ purpose of taxes. :P Yes, I didn't qualify my statement, but you yourself admit that this is at least one of the purposes of taxes. Also note that I never said that this wealth was distributed in cash form (although it is, through some programs, obviously). This redistribution goes towards many things: education, support, training, whatever. That's still a redistribution of wealth in my opinion.

          2. Your argument regarding the fact that people who get this money (the poor) are being rewarded for being sloth is based on the assumption that motivation comes from wealth. Ie, that money /is/ a reward, and that the freeloaders (the poor, the stupid) are perfectly happy to live off the backs of others. While we don't have time to debate such an axiom, it is not the axiom under under which I base my viewpoints. I believe people's primary motivation in life is to attain a social status by way of participating and contributing to the society they live in. Note that I'm not talking about material status, although in the world we live in, this is one of the only ways to attain and advertise one's position within the social heirarchy. Many an economist and phycologist have promoted the goal to contibute to one's society as the primary motivator of humans. I tend to agree .. while we equate money as reward in this society, the poor people I know are not as interested in money as they are to have the ability to have the resources required to begin contributing to their society. While the church of today is money, I'm of the opinion that it is only the sufficiently conditioned who has come to believe that people are only after enough weath to exist and/or to spend on consumption rather than self-betterment. Note, exceptions are abound, but I suppose I'm just saying that I believe the numbers fall more in the favour of those who wish to contribute rather than those who are truely content with receiving state-distributed welfare of various sorts. It is, in my opinion, only the widening gap in incomes and standards of living that are contributing to the increasing number of people who are so unhappy regarding their relative lack of wealth that they cannot focus on their desire to contribute to society in the first place. Ironically, most of the wealthy people I know (I work in that world) value money as reward FAR more than the poor people I know (I socialize in a very bohemian social circle). It's frusterating to see wealthy people suggest that poor people are driven by the same things they are, and then /withhold/ that very value to the point where these poor people can't afford the things that they both value .. food, water, rent, and cultural opportunities such as socializing. Consider the disproportionate amount of people in this society that wish to contribute in a vain that is unsupported by big business (arts, culture, non-quantitative branches of medicine, etc, etc .. whatever the wealthy elite don't value.) Essentially I am saying that withholding the redistribution of wealth, at least within a society that does not go to the ends of the earth to promote material gain as the primary human motivator, results in more people unwilling to contribute rather than people freeloading off the system.

          3. > would it not make sense for taxes to benefit those who create them

          Programs for the common good includes the poor. It's an obvious enough point that, certainly, those who create taxes should see a reasonable (by reasonable, this is set by the social barometer of the society the taxes are collected in) return in the form of programs and services that help them. I suppose that the relative contention to my point simply illustrates where that barometer is.

          All of this is notwithstanding the most sacreligious viewpoint I hold: that much of the opposition to taxes is not due to those who 'freeload' on it, but rather the disproportionate and unhealthy value that those with wealth place on it. If only they could 'let go' a little and made poor people happier (and thus far more likely to re-enter society as a contributing member), they might come to realize that freeloading is, for all intents and purposes, a creation of the very populous who is so disagreeable with the idea of redistributing their priviledged earnings. And of course .. some can, and do! But not enough, yet ...

          4. Back to the real issue at hand. Free-market capitalism is touted as the system that leads to the most efficient use of available resources (be they material, or effort). It would appear that squashing investment fraud is one such way to ensure that those resources are fed back into the fast-and-furious system, much to the delight of the big business types, rather than to the shady ones who don't feed back into the system. Therefore, I charge that, if you are into the free-market capitalist school of thought, you'd believe that this does benifit everyone in so far as it ensures that all generated value goes back to the proper religion (if you will).

          Obstinately is a good word, but please don't forget that nothing is a top-down system. The more people that perceive that taxes go to the fat cats, the more likely fat-cats will feel that their self-interest isn't as likely to hurt them in terms of their public relations. There are many ways to buck that trend (and it is getting worse), but being reluctant to contribute to the taxation system is a protest that ends up more on the backs of the already unfortunate (and, as you point out, all of us) than the well-off polician who, really, at the end of the day, could live with less financial perks to his job. Also, it's somewhat of a skewered viewpoint, as it relates back to my first point, and that part of this viewpoint is promoted by big business to swing your trust from the public sector to the private one. And if you don't believe all that ... well, do a little reading from schools of thought that are vohemently opposed to by our current social and economic system.

          But really, good argument. I see your views, but I choose to believe that part of your axioms are resonsible for these 'freeloaders' we (well, you and others, not I) are so loathe to support through taxes.
    • Oh come on now. I very much doubt that millions of your tax money has been wasted on these sites. I'm sure its much cheaper for your tax money to be spent on helping letimate company suffer when a couple thousand braindeads file chapter 11. As someone else posted, lets assume worse case they are spending $50k on this site alone. BFD. $50,000 is nothing spread over the millions of people in our country. Quite honestly, I feel that these sites are successful if just ONE person walks away from each site and says "Damn, How could I be so stupid?" Fortuantly the people that they will get through to are people who just haven't made the connection to reality yet. Granted I'm sure there are probably 100x more people who get to the last page and are still saying "BUT WHERE DO I INVEST????"
    • :) actually it would seem that the SEC is the gullible one in this. I bet some young MLM super marketdroid made a mint on selling this idea to the SEC and telling them that they need to pay himto help them setup this system...

      scam of the century for whomever came up with this idea and got paid for it!
  • by www.sorehands.com ( 142825 ) on Wednesday January 30, 2002 @03:55PM (#2926728) Homepage
    This is an example where the government entrapment is a good thing. What about the dark side of the force?

    Let the FBI put up sites for child porn, and the requirement for entry into the child porn is submitting your own child porn. Is this entrapment? What about the MPAA doing this with movie downloads?

    • by An Ominous Coward ( 13324 ) on Wednesday January 30, 2002 @04:14PM (#2926877)
      Tricking someone into acting illegally isn't necessarily entrapment. Otherwise there would be no sting operations. Entrapment requires harassment or continual provocation -- that is, forcing someone into doing something they normally would not.
      • Close, it has nothing to do with what they normally would or would not do. Entrapment just means that someone from the law enforcement side coerced an individual into committing a crime that they would not have done without that coercion.

        For example, if you have a drug dealer who ceased dealing and an officer ask for one more deal and the dealer gets busted, it would fall under entrapment. Entrapment also does not require harassment or continual provocation.

        Entrapment is the act of luring an individual into a previously or otherwise uncontemplated illegal act.

        IANAL, but try to keep up on laws :)
    • by Anonymous Coward
      This is completely different for one important reason: in all of those cases, the government or the "trapper" is trying to force the citizen to commit a crime, then arrest him or her. In this case, the SEC is helping save people from fraud by raising awareness. A citizen who signs up to trade at SEC sites is not doing anything illegal, he or she is simply setting himself or herself up to be defrauded.
    • by legLess ( 127550 ) on Wednesday January 30, 2002 @04:21PM (#2926926) Journal
      First, this isn't entrapment - they're not going to prosecute people for trying to give money to these fake sites.

      Second, the theoretical FBI tactic you describe sounds very much like entrapment (IANAL), which is very illegal.

      Frankly, I'm amazed and gratified to see a government agency making such good use of the web.
      • In fact, the site is rather dumb. It "traps" me too early. Just because I clicked on some links, it don't mean that I "could get scammed". Why cannot I click all links before I use other sources to check if the company is real?

        Only if I entered some personal information on the site and tried to submit it, then I'm likely to be a potential victim. But not before that.

  • by Thornae ( 53316 ) on Wednesday January 30, 2002 @03:56PM (#2926732)
    The Australian Securities and Investments Commission do a similar thing in print publications. They run
    bogus investment ads [asic.gov.au], including Geep - the amazing Sheep/Goat hybrid and Jellyfish Farms. The numbers actually put you in contact with ASIC, who'll tell you to be more careful with your money.

    I admit, these are a little easier to spot than the SEC ones...
  • So basically we can all wait for the report, find out which site worked the best, and copy it for our very convincing fraud companies.

    Nothing like having your tax dollars do a little free R&D for the bad guys! ;)
  • Funny too. Give it a try: http://www.brunching.com/toys/mrtname.html [brunching.com]
  • These sites are represented by the law firm of Dewey, Cheatum, and Howe.
  • By /.ing this site we hurt not only ourselves, but many foolish investors that would otherwise be able to see it and learn!

    I wonder if the SEC anticipated getting /.ed when they estimated how much of a load this site would need to bear. What are their bandwidth costs? Is this /.ing hurting taxpayers?

      • By /.ing this site we hurt not only ourselves, but many foolish investors that would otherwise be able to see it and learn!
      Unless /.'ers are the intended audience...

      How many of you got in on the VA/RedHat/LInuxONE [kidding] friends & family purchase plan? That's what I mean...

  • whois on SEC (Score:5, Informative)

    by agrounds ( 227704 ) on Wednesday January 30, 2002 @03:59PM (#2926766)
    Here are the results of the domains owned by the SEC according to the whois database at network solutions:

    SEC (SE463-ORG) no.valid.email@WORLDNIC.NET 619 487 7988
    • Re:whois on SEC (Score:5, Insightful)

      by j7953 ( 457666 ) on Wednesday January 30, 2002 @05:25PM (#2927305)

      Stop, don't slashdot that poor server. Since July 14, 1998, they've only handled 52 hits, and counting (counting quite fast, actually).

      And they're not the Securities and Exchange Commission but "La Société Informatique SEC [Service Enseignement Conception]"

  • Seems they haven't even configured some of them yet. ;) http://seek2succeed.com/ [seek2succeed.com]
    • Since it seems to have gone away already...

      ALEXANDRIA, VA 22312

      Domain Name: SEEK2SUCCEED.COM

      Administrative Contact, Billing Contact:
      SEC (VMGSFHPWCO) webmaster@mcwhortle.com
      ALEXANDRIA, VA 22312
      202 824 5151 fax: 202 504 2477

  • Perhaps this is one being referenced here [angelfire.com]:

    "http://www.lovecalculator.com This site is a fraud! Don't use it! You'll only become disenchanted! The only person that everyone---I mean EVERYONE---has a 100% chance with is Kevin Bacon. Yeah, I know...RUN!"

    SEC must be stooping pretty low!

  • ...as long as they don't resort to spamming to advertise their fake sites. I'd have to LART them if they did.
  • The SEC should enlist all those bozos who reply to Get Rich Quick spams, by starting their own pyramid scheme just to teach people not to respond to Get Rich Quick spams.


  • I wish the FDA would do the same with "alternative medicine" sites.

    The FDA should seed the web with "herbal viagra", "super blue green algae", etc sites, then slap mofo's upside the head when they are stupid enough to actually try ordering.

  • I have a problem with this. The U.S. government is, once again, lying. People need to be able to trust their government, but the government engages in every kind of behavior that it calls criminal.

    For a small collection of U.S. government lies and misleading behavior, see this collection of links I put together: What should be the Response to Violence? [hevanet.com]
    • I have a problem with this. The U.S. government is, once again, lying. People need to be able to trust their government, but the government engages in every kind of behavior that it calls criminal.

      So, the government can't pretend to be a non-existent company for the purpose of educating people?

      Do you also oppose sting operations? Reverse stings? Should I not be allowed to bluff confessions out of rape suspects? ("We found a beer bottle at the scene with a very interesting fingerprint...")

      So object lessons aren't to be allowed anymore?

      And lying isn't necessarily criminal. Not all statements fall under perjury/false swearing statutes, truth-in-advertising laws, or mandated-disclosure. It's not like the SEC is accepting money at this site, gundecking an Environmental Impact Statement, issuing a buy advisory for Enron, or claiming to be Marie of Rumania under oath.

  • Gull Awards (Score:3, Interesting)

    by stylewagon ( 197083 ) on Wednesday January 30, 2002 @04:19PM (#2926911) Homepage Journal

    The ASIC [asic.gov.au] - Australia's equivalent to the SEC - has been runnning bogus internet scams of their own for a while now. They even have awards for the best (or worst depending on your viewpoint) scams found - The Gull Awards [asic.gov.au] (past winners [asic.gov.au])

    Thats Gull as in Gullible.

  • if people manage to overlook or ignore those issues and attempt to invest money, informs them that they have made an unwise decision.

    While this is a fine idea, they really need to put similar warnings on the Social Security web site.

  • Not too cool (Score:2, Insightful)

    From their investment page.

    To bid on these shares, you must quickly e-mail us the number of shares you wish to purchase, together with your major credit card number and social security number (for identification) so we can reserve your slot.

    Thanks, SEC! Now I now where to listen for plain text emails containing social security card and credit numbers. So perhaps you are teaching people a lesson, but who's gonna pay when they become real victims of identity and credit card theft?

    The way they are handling this is just as irresponsible as the people who would actually email sensitive information.

    • Oops (Score:2, Insightful)

      guess I should have looked for the email link first. You can't actually email them your information - because when you get to the next page they identify themselves.

      Need. More. Sleep. Ignore parent post.

  • by dajr ( 64457 )
    Yes, really. Domain is registered to the federal trade commission.
  • by Seth Finkelstein ( 90154 ) on Wednesday January 30, 2002 @04:47PM (#2927057) Homepage Journal
    Hmm. Might there be unintended consequences here? Games Magazine used to have a fake ad [duke.edu] in every issue. But the purpose was not to educate reader, but to induce them to look at all the other ads.

    So now lots of people are going to be looking at hyped stocks sites. Good or bad? I wonder if anyone will get sucked-in by one of the Non-SEC sites. And how many "real" sites (and I use the term loosely) will be thought of as SEC fakes? It would be neat if there was some way to find which sites get the dubious achievement there.

    Sig: What Happened To The Censorware Project (censorware.org) [sethf.com]

  • Does this mean we can call nebulous finacial scams (like that compression scheme the other day) 'McWhortles'?
  • by SimHacker ( 180785 ) on Wednesday January 30, 2002 @04:52PM (#2927096) Homepage Journal
    When you turn in your butterfly ballot with a vote for George W. Bush, it's rejected and you get a note back saying:

    "You just accidentally voted for George W Bush! That was extremely foolish. But it doesn't matter because the outcome of the election is up to Enron and the Supreme Court."


  • The SEC appears to have a list of past investment "teaser pages," complete with page hit statistics, at this url:

    http://www.wemarket4u.net/ [wemarket4u.net]

    It looks like they've been doing this for around two years now.

  • GREAT! (Score:3, Insightful)

    by _ph1ux_ ( 216706 ) on Wednesday January 30, 2002 @05:12PM (#2927223)
    Now all i need to do is seed the internet with copies of said sites - however I will not tell the people about their unwise investing... rather I will take their investments and apply them to my world domination fund!!!

    Thanks SEC.
  • by mjh ( 57755 ) <markNO@SPAMhornclan.com> on Wednesday January 30, 2002 @05:15PM (#2927250) Homepage Journal
    I don't think the SEC really gets it. I've been wrong lots of times before and I might be here. Personally, whenever I see a website that contains something that I'm even moderately curious about, I click on their "order here" button even if I'm not going to order anything. My hopes is that they might have some additional piece of critical information that wasn't obvious in the rest of their sight (for example shipping costs, payment options, etc). The point is that I generally investigate a site pretty thoroughly before I commit to sending any of *my* information to them.

    I doubt that I'm alone in this practice. What this means is that clicking on the "gotcha link" at McWhortle.com isn't really a gotcha. It's just part of trying to find out additional information about the company. If you really want to implement the "gotcha" I would think you'd have to delay the "gotcha" right up until someone actually is really ready to bid/purchase/whatever. You got to get to the point, I'd think, where people are actually thinking about doing this, and *then* hit them with the "gotcha". Otherwise, anyone who gets to the current "gotcha page" is going to dismiss it with, "Well, yeah I kinda thought this wasn't right. Glad I don't get caught by these things. Glad I don't have to worry about these kind of scams... on the other hand, check out this other site! Wow, investments in working cold fusion?"

    I would think if you're trying to convince someone that they are too gullible, you got to catch them in the process of actually having taken the bait. Otherwise, they're not likely to learn.

    $.02. Am I off my rocker?
  • by twoflower ( 24166 ) on Wednesday January 30, 2002 @05:44PM (#2927414)
    Go to the front page here, to see how many suckers each site has gotten:

    http://www.wemarket4u.net/ [wemarket4u.net]

  • by guttentag ( 313541 ) on Wednesday January 30, 2002 @05:45PM (#2927419) Journal
    Now I can set up a fake investment site, and if anyone actually calls my bluff, I can avoid prosecution by sending them the following email:
    Congratulations! You've beaten the SEC Internet Trust Challenge! This is actually a fake investment site set up by the SEC to teach consumers about trust on the Internet. We'll refund your money within 30 days AND send you your Winner's Bonus. Thanks for playing, and remember: it pays to be Safe on the Internet!

    Bob Johnson
    Ass't Director of Consumer Protection, F Section
    Securities and Exchange Commission
    Washington, DC 20006

  • by Paul Komarek ( 794 ) <komarek.paul@gmail.com> on Thursday January 31, 2002 @12:34AM (#2929221) Homepage
    Okay folks. Many people are claiming that nobody would be stupid enough to fall for the (known) SEC fakes. Especially if their fake status becomes "common knowledge". Well, I've got some news for you.

    There are people who forward chain letters because they're afraid they'll die if they don't. There are people who believe Amway will make them rich. There are people who think Scientology makes sense. There are people who killed themselves in late 1999 (IIRC) to meet on the backside of a comet.

    There are people who believe that Bill Gates will pay them for being part of an email tracking experiment. There are people who believe computer viruses can make your ice cream go all melty (well, maybe that's stretching things...). Some people gave money, of their own free will, to Donald Trump.

    And there are people who believed GW Bush had a "clear policy for the Middle East" during the presidential debates.

    You could show the mcwhortle site to these people, tell them it's a fake, and they'd still fall for it. While we like to claim that those who write "first post" are the least intelligent creatures on earth, they're already head-and-shoulders above the people the SEC is trying to help. Many of these people are retired, and hoping to get something back from the society they gave 40+ years of work to (like my father). Some of these people abandon all reason when it comes to this hope (unlike my father, thankfully).

    The SEC is trying to reduce the number of fraud-related tragedies among these people, and I think it's a good thing. In fact, I think this is one of the coolest things I've seen our government do for the public, ever. The SEC seems to have a clue about real life and real people, unlike the Whitehouse and Congress (no matter who is in residence at the time).

    -Paul Komarek

Last yeer I kudn't spel Engineer. Now I are won.