The Chicago Sun-Times employs a monkey to pick stocks every year. And when I say a monkey, I don’t mean some idiot stockbroker who talks about shorting futures at the top of his voice in a trendy wine bar; I mean an actual simian. Surely my spam stocks would be better than the monkey’s picks?

In the last four years, said monkey has delivered returns of 36%, 35%, 4% and 36% again. Warren Buffet himself can’t match that.

At around the same time that I read this amusing article, another of those annoying emails hawking some crappy little company’s stock arrived in my inbox. On a whim inspired by the monkey’s inordinate success, I tracked that stock for the day. It went up by over 110%.

Hmmmm. Spam stocks have potential?

Next day, I tracked another. If you’d bought and sold at the right time that day (and we’re talking minutes here, rather than hours) then you’d have improved your portfolio by 42%.

This was getting interesting.

I tracked some more over the next week – some lost, a few gained. I decided to research the phenomenon more carefully, and came across a couple of highly academic reports on the subject that made it quite clear that the spammers were making between 5% and 7% on average, per email. Compounded over a period of time, that’s a shedload of cash.

Unfortunately my research also uncovered a more disappointing fact: there’s simply no easy formula for predicting when, and indeed if, the stock is going up.

I should know – I tracked 23 stocks over a period of a month, and applied eight diverse investing rules to each. In seven of the eight cases, the portfolio lost money (up to 90%, in fact) and in only one did the investment increase (by around 6%).

I was obviously an idiot, since I had nearly plowed $500 or so into a spam stocks account just to try it out.

And then it occurred to me to publish a brief report on my findings, so that other idiots like me wouldn’t get caught either. So I did. And then decided to charge a small fee for it, to recoup my investment in time spent researching.

So far, no luck. Another of my plethora of money-making scams – sorry, schemes – down the pan.

Ah, when will I be rich??

(P.S. – the answer to the headline, of course, is the same answer that Matthew Broderick taught a nuclear-armed computer in the movie ‘War Games’: the only way to win, is not to play…)