Firm That Sent 42 Million Texts Settles in Spam Case

Posted in: Spam at 18/09/2013 17:34

The Federal Trade Commission said on Tuesday that it had settled charges against a Florida company and its two top executives for sending more than 42 million unwanted and deceptive text messages to consumers.

Messages sent by the company had promised free gift cards worth up to $1,000, the commission said, but when consumers tried to visit a Web site to collect the prize, they were instead connected to a site that asked for personal information, like Social Security numbers and credit card numbers. It also required them to pay for additional services to receive a gift card.

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Text Spammers Settle FTC Charges They Illegally Sent Consumers Bogus Offers for "Free" Gift Cards [news release]
An affiliate marketing company and its two principals have agreed to settle Federal Trade Commission charges for allegedly sending out more than 42.5 million unwanted and deceptive text messages to consumers. The case is part of the FTC's continuing crackdown on spam text messages and the settlement prohibits the defendants from sending unwanted texts to consumers, and from misleading consumers about whether they have won gifts or prizes and whether a product is "free" or without cost or obligation.

"FTC action in cases like this one have dramatically reduced the amount of illegal text message spam, especially as it relates to bogus gift card offers" said FTC Midwest Region Director C. Steven Baker. "Not only are spam texts annoying and illegal, but they can also cost consumers money."

According to the FTC's complaint, Rentbro, Inc., and its principals, Daniel Pessin and Jacob Engel, residents of Ft. Lauderdale, sent deceptive text messages to millions of consumers telling them they had been selected to receive $1,000 gift cards to major retailers such as Best Buy, Target, and Walmart. A typical message stated, "Your entry in our drawing WON you a FREE $1,000 Target Giftcard! Enter "312" at to claim it and we can ship it to you immediately!"

The hyperlink included in the text message brought consumers to a website the defendants created to reinforce the deceptive gift card message and then to a variety of third-party websites where consumers were asked to submit personal information under the guise of claiming their gift cards. After collecting consumers' personal information, consumers were told they had to sign up for more than a dozen risky trial offers, none of which was free, to qualify for the promised "free" gift card.

In addition to prohibiting the unlawful conduct, the stipulated order against the defendants requires them to turn over all of their remaining assets and imposes a partially suspended monetary judgment of $377,321, which is all of the money received in connection with the scam.

This case is the second settlement stemming from an FTC enforcement sweep initiated earlier this year against 29 defendants responsible for sending more than 180 million spam text messages.

The Commission's vote authorizing staff to file the stipulated final order was 4-0. The FTC filed the stipulated final order for permanent injunction in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois, Eastern Division. The District Court judge signed and approved the order on Sept. 13, 2013.

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