Print 16 comment(s) - last by g35fan.. on Mar 11 at 4:49 PM

Suits come after over 20,000 public complaints

Today, many phone users are adversely affected by text message spam.  We've talked about one form of spam -- fraudulent premium messaging.  Some carriers, such as Sprint Nextel Corp. (S), refuse to ban these spammers from their networks, actively participating in the spam scheme that they share the profits from.  Other networks like AT&T, Inc. (T) used to operate like in this manner, but have been forced to quit due to lawsuits.

I. Gift Card Scammers Send 180 Million Texts 

Another prevalent form of text message spam is fake promotions.  Similar to email phishing, many of the scams claim that they will offer rewards like free meals, trips, or coffee.  The scammers then proceed to suck users into schemes where they give up sensitive personal information, are forced to pay subscription fees, and are subject to additional scams.  Ultimately few of the messaging scams ever give out any of the rewards they promise their victims.

One particularly popular variant is the "gift card" scam, which offers users gift cards to a popular restaurant, store, or coffee shop. In order to "win" the scam forces customers to sign up for a dozen or more other promotions.  Even if they gave their credit card info and participated in all the required offers, users were often still denied the gift card unless they could hook in friends to buy into the scam.

gift card
[Image Source: Merchantos]

In total, the U.S. Federal Trade Commission received 20,000 complaints from consumers.  The FTC estimates the spammers sent out 180 million texts as part of the fraud scheme.

In announcing suits against eight of the top text message spam perpetrators, Charles Harwood, acting director of the FTC's Bureau of Consumer Protection, comments, "Today's announcement says 'game over' to the major league scam artists behind millions of spam texts.  The offers are, in a word, garbage."

II. Who's Sued

One spammer -- Phil Flora -- may get nailed particularly hard as he was already banned from text spamming in 2011, and is now being charged with an additional contempt charge, which could send him off to prison.

[Image Source: Minding the Media]

The firms targeted in the cases are:
  • Superior Affiliate Management, a case against five defendants: Ecommerce Merchants, LLC (also doing business as Superior Affiliate Management); Cresta Pillsbury, Jan-Paul Diaz, Joshua Brewer and Daniel Stanitski. This case was filed in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois in Chicago.
  • Rentbro, Inc., a case against three defendants: Rentbro, Inc., Daniel Pessin and Jacob Engel. This case was filed in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois in Chicago.
  • Jason Q. Cruz, a case against one defendant, Jason Q. Cruz (also doing business as Appidemic, Inc.) This case was filed in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois in Chicago.
  • Rishab Verma, a case against two defendants: Verma Holdings, LLC and Rishab Verma. This case was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas in Houston.
  • AdvertMarketing, a case against three defendants: AdvertMarketing, Inc., Scott A. Dalrymple and Robert Jerrold Wence. This case was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas in Houston.
  • Henry Kelly, a case against one defendant, Henry Nolan Kelly. This case was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Georgia in Atlanta.
  • Seaside Building Marketing, a case against four defendants: Phillip Flora, Sandra Skipper, Kevin Beans and Dakota Geffre (all of whom are also doing business as Seaside Building Marketing Inc. and SB Marketing). This case was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California in Los Angeles.
  • SubscriberBASE Holdings, Inc., a case against 10 defendants: SubscriberBASE Holdings, Inc.; SubscriberBASE, Inc.; Jeffrey French; All Square Marketing, LLC; Threadpoint, LLC; PC Global Investments, LLC; Slash 20, LLC; Brent Cranmer; Christopher McVeigh (also doing business as CMB Marketing, Inc.) and Michael Mazzella (also doing business as Mazzco Marketing, Inc.). This case was filed in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois in Chicago.
The FTC encourages customers who feel they've received email or text message spam/scams to file a complaint.  Complaints can be filed via the FTC's online Complaint Assistant or by calling 1-877-FTC-HELP (1-877-382-4357).

Source: FTC

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Hang 'em high
By LBID on 3/8/2013 5:41:18 PM , Rating: 5
I hope they string these idiots up from the highest tree in the forest. Bottom-sucking leeches.

RE: Hang 'em high
By inperfectdarkness on 3/9/13, Rating: -1
RE: Hang 'em high
By CZroe on 3/9/2013 10:35:59 PM , Rating: 2
They need to get crap like YouMail involved too. I can't stand when I call someone and then get one of those "tell me who you are" messages automatically. I get billed for that!

RE: Hang 'em high
By masamasa on 3/10/2013 5:40:19 PM , Rating: 2
Agreed. Enough losers out there already without the likes of these bottom feeders.

By Schmide on 3/8/2013 8:45:49 PM , Rating: 4
from cardholder services.

Well Jessica called me from cardholder services yesterday.

FTC is a paper tiger.

By woody1 on 3/9/2013 10:01:00 AM , Rating: 2
I get those "Cardholder Services" calls about once a week. My guess is that they're from offshore somewhere. It may be that they're hard to stop.

By ShaolinSoccer on 3/8/13, Rating: 0
RE: Spammers
By kleinma on 3/8/2013 4:18:05 PM , Rating: 2
Did you read the article or just come to comment? This is about sms (text message) spam, not email spam.

They use spoofed numbers anyway when they send them, so there is no real form of blocking, unless you were to do something like block all and only allow known numbers, which is not very realistic to do these days.

RE: Spammers
By The Melon on 3/9/2013 11:01:45 AM , Rating: 2
Where do you think most SMS spam comes from? It comes in from SMTP to SMS gateways.

An eye for an eye
By zlandar on 3/9/2013 10:05:21 AM , Rating: 4
These scum should be forced to eat their own cooking.

They should be forced to read aloud and click off on every spam message they send while in prison.

They are free to go once they read them. All of them.

By In2Boost on 3/9/2013 7:46:34 PM , Rating: 2
At least one of the jokers listed above has been spamming me for a while, and my telephone number is nowhere on the internet, except maybe my CC companies' "secure" sites.

Verizon Wireless allows you to block, but charges YOU to list more than five E-mail addresses or numbers. They have been quite empathetic (and as emphatic as some of us are, here), responded to my complaints, and seem to be actively fighting these pathetic people.

I think a FTC lawsuit will work better than this:

RE: filth
By V-Money on 3/10/2013 11:54:44 PM , Rating: 2
I think the weird part is that I've never received a text spam before this last week. I received one, then this article came up, and I got another one the other day. It's very annoying and I don't like that they have my name in one of them.

By EmilyGrands22 on 3/9/13, Rating: 0
RE: !!!!!!!!!!!!
By StevoLincolnite on 3/11/2013 8:19:04 AM , Rating: 4
The irony...

How about UK
By wifiwolf on 3/9/2013 11:39:59 AM , Rating: 2
Here hoping UK being brave enough to do the same

# of complaints
By g35fan on 3/11/2013 4:49:33 PM , Rating: 2
It seems the # of complaints should be much higher for the FTC to sue all these companies.

Imagine if all it took were 20,000+ complaints to the government to get their action on other issues in the US...

"I mean, if you wanna break down someone's door, why don't you start with AT&T, for God sakes? They make your amazing phone unusable as a phone!" -- Jon Stewart on Apple and the iPhone
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