FTC Busts Major Spam Texting Operation

Dennis Faas's picture

The United States Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has charged 29 people suspected of sending more than 180 million spammy text messages.

An FTC spokesman said he had a simple message for anyone who receives unsolicited offers through a text message: "Delete them, immediately. The offers are, in a word, garbage." (Source: pcmag.com)

According to the FTC, the accused sent messages falsely claiming the recipient had won a prize, such as a $1,000 gift card from a major retailer.

If a recipient followed a link placed in the message, they would be asked to supply personal information -- including credit card details -- that was then sold to marketers. The victim then received more spam rather than the promised gift.

Text Spam Prizes Almost Impossible to Claim

Some recipients were asked to apply for special subscriptions in order to receive their reward. In some cases "prize winners" were told they had to sign up for a dozen or more promotional offers and find friends to do the same before they would receive their prizes.

The people who sent the text messages are said to have been working on a commission basis, receiving payment for every recipient who followed a bogus link. Website operators received money every time somebody signed up for a promotional offer.

Cellphone Spammer a Repeat Offender

Among those accused is Phil Flora, who reached a settlement with the FTC in 2011. At that time Flora stood accused of sending a "mind-boggling" number of spam messages about mortgages. Flora sent the messages while pretending to represent a government agency.

Although Flora was not convicted of any criminal offenses and did not formally admit any guilt, he signed a legally-binding settlement that prevents him from "sending or helping others send unsolicited commercial text messages."

The 2011 settlement also bars Flora "from making false or misleading claims about any good or service, including misrepresentations that he, his representatives, or any other person is affiliated or associated with a government agency." (Source: ftc.gov)

The FTC now says Flora has breached that agreement by participating in the aforementioned spam scheme. The FTC plans to pursue action against Flora on this basis.

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