If you've ever received a spam text message offering a free gift card or prize from a popular retailer, it could very well have originated from one of the 29 defendants the FTC has charged with sending over 180 million spam text messages. The text messages alleged that individuals could receive a prize from Best Buy, Walmart, Target, or similar stores for free by providing personal information and applying or subscribing to services.
Aside from the annoyance factor, some of the recipients of the spam messages had to pay for them, with the FTC stating that up to 12-percent of mobile subscribers do not have a text messaging plan. In some instances, the information collected via the prize and gift card websites, which the text messages linked to, was sold to third-parties.
Those who went through with the process were subjected to a variety of conditions to get the gift card or prize that weren't specified upfront, such as completing offers and getting friends to participate. Because of this, the defendants are said to have violated the FTC Act, which requires consumers to be informed about the various conditions that need to be satisfied to receive the gift. The agency seeks a restraining order that will keep the defendants from continuing with these activities.
The FTC's Acting Director of the Bureau of Consumer Protection Charles A. Harwood had this to say: "Today's announcement says ‘game over’ to the major league scam artists behind millions of spam texts. 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."