The U.S Federal Trade Commission announced today that it is cracking down on text messaging spam. The FTC’s ire is targeted at affiliate marketers that use SMS to send spam messages intended to get consumers to visit deceptive websites promising “free” gift cards. The FTC charged 29 defendants with collectively sending 180 million unwanted text messages to consumers.
The messages promised consumers free gift cards worth as much as $1,000 to retailers like Best Buy, Target and Walmart, according to an FTC release. Consumers that clicked on the messages were prompted to provide personal information, apply for credit or pay to subscribe to get access to the supposedly free gift cards.
The FTC complaints targeted both the senders of the spam messages as well the owners of the deceptive websites. In addition, the FTC filed contempt charges against serial spammer Phil Flora, who was barred from sending spam text messages in 2011 and was found to be part of the recent complaints.
Of the eight complaints the FTC issued, seven were against the text senders and one against a website operator. According to the FTC, the defendants that sent the text messages were paid by the operators of the free gift card websites based on how many people were eventually duped into entering their personal information. The FTC alleges that the sites violate the FTC Act by failing to tell consumers of all the conditions set forth to obtain the supposedly free gift cards.
The complaints are levied against companies and individuals. The list of text spammers includes several marketing firms such as Superior Affiliate Management, Rentbro, Inc., Jason Q. Cruz (doing business as Appidemic, Inc.), AdvertMarketing, Rishab Verma (Verma Holdings) and Seaside Building Marketing. The one complaint against a website operator was made against SubscriberBase Holdings, Inc.
The FTC filings at this point are just complaints. The FTC notes that it, “files a complaint when it has ‘reason to believe’ that the law has been or is being violated and it appears to the Commission that a proceeding is in the public interest. The complaint is not a finding or ruling that the defendant has actually violated the law. The cases will be decided by the court.”
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