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FTC Text Message Spammer Summary

When it comes to advertising through the use of text messages, things can go either very smoothly or they can get very aggravating. There are many mobile advertisers that opt to use text messaging as an advertising platform that know how to do so effectively. However, there are also those infamous and seemingly constant spam text messages that often end up with mobile users getting scammed. Of course, there are a lot of people out there looking to find the sort of “easy way out” and pummel smartphone owners’ inboxes with irrelevant scams. With comScore reporting that there are more than 129 million smartphone owners in the U.S. now, it is expected news that text message scams have gone up as well. A Slate article reports that in 2009, there were a reported 2.2 million spam messages sent and received in the country, and by 2011 that number had skyrocketed to 4.5 billion. More recently, there are over 180 million of these spam texts being sent. By now, smartphone users have been crying out in need of something to be done about these spam text messages, and the FTC is now ready to respond.

The Federal Trade Commission is cracking down on affiliate marketers that allegedly bombarded consumers with hundreds of millions of unwanted spam text messages in an effort to steer them towards deceptive websites falsely promising “free” gift cards.

In eight different complaints filed in courts around the United States, the FTC charged 29 defendants with collectively sending more than 180 million unwanted text messages to consumers, many of whom had to pay for receiving the texts. The messages promised consumers free gifts or prizes, including gift cards worth $1,000 to major retailers such as Best Buy, Walmart and Target. Consumers who clicked on the links in the messages found themselves caught in a confusing and elaborate process that required them to provide sensitive personal information, apply for credit or pay to subscribe to services to get the supposedly “free” cards.

Believe that this is a very real situation. I myself have received about five of these “free gift card” offers just this week. Two were for Walmart, and the other three promised me gift cards to Target. Of course, I did not follow through with any of them, realizing what they were. However, there are many people out there that do not realize what these messages are until they have already gone too far along in the process. By the time that they realize the offer is a fantasy; they have already given out things like names, email addresses, and sometimes even credit card numbers. Plus, the fact that these people are tricked into following through makes these spammers believe that what they are doing is working, causing for more of the same for others. These text messages are far more dubious than they may appear at first glance.

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.

As a regular U.S. smartphone owner, I actually enjoyed receiving advertisements through text messages. It made it easy to get updates about my favorite businesses, and even to receive information about deals sometimes. However, the spammers are ruining things for everyone.  I now ignore all text ads because it is hard to tell which is right and which is wrong, and I am sure I am not alone.

Pesach Lattin
Pesach Lattin
Pesach "Pace" Lattin is one of the top experts in interactive advertising, affiliate marketing. Pesach Lattin is known for his dedication to ethics in marketing, and focus on compliance and fraud in the industry, and has written numerous articles for publications from MediaPost, ClickZ, ADOTAS and his own blogs.


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