FTC files charges against 'gift card' text spammers

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The Federal Trade Commission has filed eight different complaints against 29 defendants charged with collectively sending more than 180 million unwanted text messages to consumers promising prizes like gift cards to big-box retailers including Target, Walmart and Best Buy.

According to the FTC complaints, the defendants sent texts to random phone numbers across the U.S., including some consumers without a messaging subscription plan. Consumers who clicked on links inserted into 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," the commission states, adding that personal data collected by the sites was then sold to third parties for marketing purposes.

The FTC also alleges the operators of these sites violated the FTC Act by failing to tell consumers about all conditions attached to the gift, including the possibility they would be required to spend money to receive their award.

"Today's announcement says 'game over' to the major league scam artists behind millions of spam texts," said Charles A. Harwood, Acting Director of the FTC's Bureau of Consumer Protection. "The FTC is committed to rooting out this deception and stopping it. For consumers who find spam texts on their phones, delete them, immediately. The offers are, in a word, garbage."

For more:
- read this release

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