FTC Launches Crackdown on Text Message Spam, Sues 8 Companies
March 8, 2013 3:03 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. (
), 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. (
) 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.
[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
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.
, 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.
, 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.
, 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.
, 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
or by calling 1-877-FTC-HELP (1-877-382-4357).
"It looks like the iPhone 4 might be their Vista, and I'm okay with that." -- Microsoft COO Kevin Turner
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