FTC Cracks Down on 'Gift Card' Text Message Spammers
The Federal Trade Commission is cracking down on marketers who have been sending hundreds of millions of unwanted text messages that promised "free" gift cards.
Twenty-nine defendants were charged with collectively sending more than 180 million unwanted messages to consumers, many of whom had to pay for the incoming texts. The messages promised prizes like gift cards worth up to $1,000 to major retailers like Best Buy, Walmart, Target, and others.
"Today's announcement says 'game over' to the major league artists behind millions of spam texts," Charles Harwood, acting director of the FTC's Bureau of Consumer Protection said in a statement. "The FTC is committed to rooting out this deception and stopping it. For consumers who find spam texts on their phones, delete them, immediately. The offers are, in a word, garbage."
According to FTC complaints, the defendants sent messages to random phone numbers. Consumers who were duped into following the links included in the texts were directed to sites that requested personal information - including credit card data - in exchange for the gift cards. The "shipping information" gathered for the cards was ultimately sold to third parties for marketing purposes.
The Commission said these operations violate the FTC Act by failing to tell consumers about all conditions attached to the "free" gift.
Spammers named in the complaints include marketing firms Superior Affiliate Management, Rentbro, Jason Q. Cruz, Rishab Verma, AdvertMarketing, Henry Nolan Kelly, and Seaside Building Marketing. One complaint named website operator SubscriberBASE Holdings, Inc.
The FTC is also pursuing a contempt action against serial text spammer Phil Flora, who was banned two years ago from sending spam messages, but was allegedly part of this scheme.
The FTC is seeking restraining orders, which would prevent the defendants from sending any more texts, as well as a preservation of their assets. The cases will be handled by district courts in Illinois, Texas, Georgia, and California.