US Regulator Clamps Down on SMS Spam

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The USA's Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has clamped down on a number of people sending bulk text messages to people promoting deceptive websites falsely promising "free" gift cards.

In eight different complaints filed in courts around the United States, the FTC charged 29 defendants with collectively sending more than 180 million unwanted text messages to consumers, many of whom had to pay for receiving the texts.

The messages promised consumers free gifts or prizes, including gift cards worth $1,000 to major retailers such as Best Buy, Walmart and Target. Consumers who clicked on the links in the messages found themselves caught in a confusing and elaborate process that required them to provide sensitive personal information, apply for credit or pay to subscribe to services to get the supposedly "free" cards.

"Today's announcement says 'game over' to the major league scam artists behind millions of spam texts," said Charles A. Harwood , Acting Director of the FTC's Bureau of Consumer Protection.

The FTC complaints targeted defendants who sent the unwanted text messages, as well as those who operated the deceptive websites. In addition, the FTC is pursuing a contempt action against a serial text message spammer, Phil Flora, who was barred in 2011 from sending spam text messages and who is accused of being part of this spam texting scheme as well.

According to the FTC complaints, the defendants sent text messages to random phone numbers, including to consumers who do not have a text message subscription plan. As many as 12 percent of mobile phone users fall into this category.

According to the FTC, the defendants who sent the text messages were paid by the operators of the "free" gift websites based on how many consumers eventually entered their information. The operators of the free gift websites were in turn paid by those businesses who gained customers or subscribers through the "offer" process.

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Tags: sms  spam  ftc  USA 

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