Unwanted financial advice


About 5:20 today, the phone on my desk rang: an international number of some sort. I answered, because I’ve been raised to answer the telephone, and because international numbers speak of some smoky and exotic excitement. Was it a secret agent, calling to tell me he’s broken the launch codes of the Russian ICBMs?

No, it was a bloke in an office somewhere, trying to get me to buy some shares.

About once every three months, an English bloke phones me up with a fantastic money making opportunity. Sometimes he’s in Jakarta. Sometimes he’s in Mumbai. This time he was in New Delhi. Perhaps he’s a local, but if so, they’re doing a much better job of training them to have the accent of a south London wide boy than anyone expected. I imagine he’s got a buzzcut and on Saturdays as a yoof would be selling ‘stolen’ perfume down the market that was not stolen, just incredibly hooky. But now he’s got my office number (I can’t imagine how – did somebody write it on the door of a toilet frequented by traders?) and he keeps calling me, and every time he forgets we’ve had the same call before. That’s right, there is a corner of some foreign call centre, that is forever England. If I should buy, think only this of me, etc etc…

There’s a bit of flattery first, and then a few questions that you can only say ‘yes’ to; I think this is meant to be a crude form of neuro-linguistic programming to make the recipient more suggestible. If you had an opportunity to make a 30% return on your investment, you’d take it, wouldn’t you? I can tell you’re the kind of person who’s interested in a long term, profitable relationship.

And then there’s the stock, which according to the secret information my caller has, is going to go up by 30% in the next 90 days, guaranteed. Last time it was a solar panel manufacturer that G.E. was about to sign a massive contract with. This time it was a company called Astor, ‘A-T-O-R, write that down’, a surefine winner because they mine gold.

Er.

This already felt like a scam. Money doesn’t generally descend from heaven, unless it’s the wrapper for some manna and I have a feeling that I’m not one of God’s Chosen People, and even if Singapore is quite warm, it’s hardly a desert that we’re in for 40 years. OK, he had mentioned something people value (gold) so clearly everything else he was saying had to be true, right? I punched in the stock symbol to the internet and had a look:

http://www.nasdaq.com/symbol/ator/interactive-chart?timeframe=1y&charttype=line

ator stock

Now, on the one hand that stock is going up nicely; it’s a monotonic increasing line, as we used to say when I was a little mathematical undergraduate. But it does look rather odd, how it doesn’t get traded at all for months on end, then jumps up. Then doesn’t get traded again. And I can’t find any filings with the SEC, or a profit and loss, or a balance sheet, or anything else. It doesn’t feel like a real company, so much as something a boiler room might pump.

Not that it couldn’t be a real company, just one which seems utterly disconnected from the story the man on the phone was telling me. Not that I can say anything about Astor one way or another, but when somebody tells you something that’s too good to be true, that’s probably because it’s not true. I patiently explained that I don’t have any free capital to invest. (I didn’t complete the sentence “in insane investments in companies that I don’t know anything about, via a stranger in a foreign country”).

But he persisted. The nail in the coffin was when he said “Now, I understand you’re not going to follow investment advice from somebody who’s just phoned you up. I’m not going to ask you to put all your money in this, just five percent, say, just twenty thousand shares.”

ATOR is currently priced at $3.45. If five percent of my net worth was 1.4 million dollars, I wouldn’t be in the office today taking phone calls from men I don’t know selling stocks I’ve never heard of. I told him if I had that much spare cash lying around, I’d be on a boat somewhere, not talking to him, and put the phone down.

Clearly enough people must agree for this to be a nice little earner for somebody. And clearly there’s nobody taking notice of the fact that I haven’t bit at any of the bait they’ve floated in front of me. So why do they keep wasting their time calling me up?

But perhaps I’m being unfair. Perhaps I’ve missed out on the investment opportunity of a lifetime. After all, I’m not a financial whizkid by any stretch of the imagination; I’ve been lucky more often than not with my trading activity, but I haven’t made myself rich as a result. Maybe I should look back in 90 days time, and see if Astor really has shot up by 30%. Or shot up by 30% and then flatlined.


One response to “Unwanted financial advice”

  1. A sure fire way to get rid of these guys is to say your line is breaking up and can they give you their number so you can call them back if the call ends abruptly. They then terminate the call at their end pdq.

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