March 8, 2013
FTC Cracks Down On Mobile Phone Spammers
redOrbit Staff & Wire Reports - Your Universe Online
The Federal Trade Commission announced on Thursday that it has filed eight lawsuits in federal courts throughout the US in recent days against 29 defendants it claims are behind hundreds of millions of scam text messages sent to mobile phone users.
"Today's announcement says ℠game over´ to the major league scam artists behind millions of spam texts," said Charles Harwood, Acting Director of the FTC´s Bureau of Consumer Protection.
"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,” the commission advised.
The commission accused the defendants of inundating consumers with more than 180 million unsolicited text messages, many of which promised free $1,000 gift cards to national chain stores, but then required consumers to either purchase a subscription to a service, complete a credit application, or provide sensitive personal information such as Social Security numbers and credit card numbers before receiving the gift cards.
However, consumers rarely, if ever, made it to the point of receiving any actual award, the FTC said.
“If any consumer gets that far and actually gets a gift card, it isn´t free,” Harwood told reporters, adding that the commission was not aware of anyone who had actually received a promised reward.
Most of the fraudulent messages were sent to random phone numbers, and many of the consumers who received the unsolicited messages were charged for receiving them.
Harwood said that about 60 percent of mobile phone users have received at least one or more spam text messages during the past year, with about 15 percent clicking on the link included in the message.
Most of the 29 defendants in the FTC´s eight federal civil cases worked for companies that were hired to send the text messages.
One of the complaints was filed against the operators of one of the Web sites to which consumers were directed by the spam messages.
Among the companies named in the lawsuits were Superior Affiliate Management, Rentbro, Appidemic, Verma Holdings, AdvertMarketing, Seaside Building Marketing and SubscriberBASE Holdings.
Sending spam messages is illegal under existing civil law, and other laws are often violated when spam messages are sent to cell phone numbers registered in the FTC´s “Do Not Call” registry.
The commission said an additional case charging contempt of court is being pursued against Phillip Flora, who repeatedly sent text message spam and had been banned in 2011 from sending any further unsolicited messages. Flora could now face felony charges of violating a federal court order.
Companies that send scam messages often change the originating numbers, which complicates efforts to identify the true source. The commission said it had received at least 50,000 complaints about spam text messages during the last few years, 20,000 of which involved offers of a free gift.
FTC officials advised anyone who receives these messages not to click on any link, or reply to the note. Furthermore, mobile phone users who receive unwanted messages should not text ℠STOP´ or any similar instructions back to the sender, because this only confirms to the originator that the phone number is valid.
Instead, the commission advised consumers to forward any scam text messages to 7726, a central repository created by wireless carriers, and then delete the message.