FTC cracks down on text message spam

The Federal Trade Commission is cracking down on text message spam, announcing Thursday it has filed eight complaints against 29 defendants in courts around the U.S.

The agency said the defendants bombarded consumers with more than 180 million text messages that often promised “free” $1,000 gift cards to popular retailers but then required consumers to pay for a subscription to a service, apply for credit or enter sensitive personal information before they could get their gift card.

Many of the consumers who received the spam also had to pay for receiving the unwanted messages.

“The FTC is committed to rooting out this deception and stopping it,” the FTC said in a statement. “For consumers who find spam texts on their phones, delete them, immediately. The offers are, in a word, garbage.”

The FTC said it is going after those who sent the spam as well as the operator of the deceptive websites. The agency said the operator, SubscriberBASE Holdings Inc., violated the FTC Act by not telling consumers about all the conditions attached to obtaining their “free” gift card.

The way the system works: The spammers got paid by the website operator based on how many consumers they could get to enter information. The website operator was then paid by businesses who gained customers through the process.

In addition to the eight complaints, the FTC said it was also going after Phil Flora, a serial text message spammer. Flora was banned from sending spam texts in 2011, but the FTC is now accusing him of being a part of this text message scheme.