FTC Settles With Spammer Who Sent Millions Of Deceptive Texts

Junk mail and e-mail spam are annoying enough, but text message spam can be truly aggravating. Not only is it pointless, but also, depending on your phone plan, you may get charged for the privilege of having to delete scummy, scammy links.

Luckily, you’re not the only one who things deceptive text-message spam marketing is a problem: the Federal Trade Commission is right there with you. And the FTC is stopping at least one heavy-duty text message scammer from bombarding the airwaves with his deceptive messages anymore, the agency announced today.

The FTC first began targeting 29 deceptive text-messaging marketers last March. Today they announced a judgement against one of the spammers, Wisconsin man Jason Cruz. The messages Cruz and the other marketers sent were of the “You have been selected for a $1,000 Walmart GiftCard, Enter code ‘FREE’ at [website address] to claim your prize: 161 left!” variety.

Of course, when recipients followed through on the link, they didn’t receive prizes. Instead, they faced layer after layer of requests for personal information–in some cases, like address collection, framed as necessary info for receiving the non-existent free gift cards. That info was then sold off, and message recipients had to jump through still more hoops to have any hope of getting an actual gift card to arrive.

The settlement Cruz and the FTC reached, called a stipulated final judgement (PDF), has two main outcomes. The first is that Cruz isn’t allowed to scam people with spam texts anymore. He is “permanently banned” from sending (or from helping others send) unsolicited text messages. He’s also banned from “deceptively presenting an offer as ‘free,’ and from misleading consumers about the use of their personal information.”

The second outcome of the judgement was a finding against Cruz for $185,041.26, the full amount of money Cruz received from the scam. Due to being completely broke, though, Cruz is only required to pay $10,000 of the total sum.

Jessica Rich, director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection, said, “When scammers use unwanted text messages to entice consumers with deceptive offers, that’s a significant problem. Banning a serial spammer like Mr. Cruz from sending unsolicited text messages helps the FTC take a huge cut out of scammers’ efforts to target consumers in this way.”