11 Mar 2013
The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) began legal actions against 29 people believed responsible for bombarding mobile phone users with some 180 million illicit SMS messages promoting “free” gift cards.
The eight separate cases were based on a number of 20,000 complaints received by the FTC in 2012 from people reporting numerous unsolicited SMS messages. These texts promoted false promises of gift cards, winnings or discount vouchers allegedly distributed by high-profile retail players, including Best Buy, Walmart and Target.
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” which prompted the Commission to act not only against the text senders, but also against the gift website operators.
The SMS messages were usually delivered with dangerous links. Some would try to convince users to willingly provide scammers with sensitive identification data or credit card information, others would con victims to subscribe to services or pay for products that would never make it to their buyers.
Once caught in one of these scams, a victim could end up subscribing to more than a dozen illegal empty offers to become an eligible candidate for a bogus gift card.
“Today’s announcement says ‘game over’ to the major league scam artists behind millions of spam texts,” Charles Harwook, Acting Director of the FTC’s Bureau of Customer Protection, said in a statement.