Global stocks across Asia, Europe, and the U.S. slumped today, ahead of a European Union summit this Thursday and Friday. Some analysts are concerned that the summit could lead to an impasse and underscore divisions in Europe, particularly between Germany and France.
The Dow fell 138 points, with 29 of its 30 components lower; the S&P 500 lost 21; and the Nasdaq was off 56. Decliners led advancers by 10 to 3 on the NYSE and 3 to 1 on the Nasdaq. The prices of Treasuries strengthened. Gold futures gained $21.50 to close at $1,588.40 an ounce, and the price of crude oil dropped 55 cents to settle at $79.21 a barrel.
In Other Business News:
- Sales of new homes hit a more than two-year high in May, according to the Commerce Department. May’s seasonally adjusted annualized rate of 369,000 new homes sold was 7.6% higher month over month and almost 20% higher year over year. The median year-over-year new home price, meanwhile, rose 5.6% to $234,500.
- The government of Cyprus, a eurozone member, officially asked for a bailout today to help its banks. Cyprus has close economic ties to Greece; its banks and its economy are heavily exposed to struggling Greece. Also today, Spain officially asked for a bailout for its banks. The move was more of a formality, as the deal had been unofficially announced a few weeks ago. Five eurozone countries have now asked for or received bailouts in this years-long financial crisis: Cyprus, Greece, Ireland, Portugal, and Spain.
- Greek Finance Minister Vassilis Rapanos resigned today for health reasons after being in office only a few days. Rapanos was rushed to the hospital on Friday, suffering from an abdominal illness, and spent the weekend in the hospital.
- Business activity in the Dallas area recovered in June, according to the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas. Its general business activity index jumped from a contraction of minus 5.1 to an expansion of 5.8. The employment, new orders, and production indexes strengthened as well.
- Microsoft announced that it will buy Yammer in an all-cash, $1.2 billion deal. Yammer creates social media sites for businesses, and Microsoft’s move highlights the growing importance it places on social media. Microsoft’s shares (MSFT) fell 2%.
Due to a temporary move across the country, I recently experienced the joy of long-distance apartment hunting on Craigslist. Here’s one snippet from a scammer’s incredibly long and detailed email, spelling and punctuation as-is, and which a Google search shows has been used many times: “Await your urgent reply so that we can discuss on how to get the document and the keys to you, please we are giving you all this based on trust and again i will want you to stick to your words, you know that we have not seen yet and only putting everything into Gods hands, so please do not let us down in this our property and God bless you more as you do this.” This is the first email I received after I responded to an ad by asking, “Do you allow dogs?”
My apartment hunt made me a sort of connoisseur of scammers. I wondered why all the emails were so obviously fake and why so many claimed to be from Nigeria, which has become synonymous with scams (much to the chagrin of legitimate businesses in Nigeria). Were they just bad, unimaginative writers? Or was there a method to their grammatically challenged madness? There’s a very devious method, it turns out. A paper by Cormac Herley of Microsoft Research argues that being obvious about a high-volume scam is actually a very smart and successful business strategy. The paper has a wonderfully simple title: “Why do Nigerian Scammers Say They are from Nigeria?” As Herley asks, they’re lying about everything else, so why not lie about where they’re from?
Think of it from the point of view of the scammer: You’re sending countless emails. You don’t really want many responses. You want the right responses, because if too many people respond, you’ll be swamped. You don’t want to send a legitimate-sounding email to someone who’s going to wise up as soon as you start asking for bank account information. That’s a waste of all the time you spend trying to get the person to trust you (as Herley says, it’s a “false positive”). Instead, you want people to raise their hands and say, “I’m gullible! I’ll fall for anything!” And there’s no better way to find those people than to say you’re a Nigerian prince on the run with millions of dollars.
Maybe the solution to spam and scams aren’t to ignore them but to enthusiastically respond to them (elsewhere, this is called “scambaiting”). Imagine a scammer sending out 2,000 emails and getting 1,000 responses in return. What could they possibly do with 1,000 emails in their inbox? How long would they need to spend on the phone or sending follow-up emails to separate the legitimate from the scambait? Stuffed inboxes; all day on the phone; long hours in the office: It’d almost be like a real job.
Have you received a scam email recently? And is this another case of working incredibly hard to avoid working (sort of like putting more effort into cheating on a test than it would take to study for the test)? Leave your thoughts below.