FTC settles with text spammers, seizes assets

ID-100128578When you get a text message, you probably expect it to be from a friend or family member. Deceptive marketing texts are a disappointment. They waste your time and could cost you money.

The Federal Trade Commission just extracted a settlement from a company and its principals who allegedly sent out more than 42.5 million unwanted, deceptive text messages. It was part of a continuing FTC crackdown on spam texts.

The defendants are prohibited from sending unwanted texts, misleading consumers about prizes they’ve won or whether a product is actually “free” or with no cost or obligation.

Rentbro, Inc. and principals Daniel Pessin and Jacob Engel, both of Ft. Lauderdale, Florida, allegedly sent deceptive text messages telling consumers they had been selected to receive $1,000 gift cards to retailers such as Best Buy, Target, and Walmart. Messages said things like, “Your entry in our drawing WON you a FREE $1,000 Target Giftcard!  Enter “312” at http://www.target.com.tgrz.biz to claim it and we can ship it to you immediately!”

Clicking the link took consumers to a website that tricked consumers into thinking they had won a prize and lead them to third party websites variety of third-party websites designed to collect personal information — supposedly required to collect the gift cards.  Consumers were then told they had to sign up for more than a dozen trial offers, none of them free, to qualify for the “free” gift card.

 The defendants are required to turn over all remaining assets. The ruling also imposes a partially suspended monetary judgment of $377,321 — which is all of the money received through the scam.

The FTC embarked on an enforcement sweep initiated earlier this year against 29 defendants responsible for sending more than 180 million spam text messages.