The US Federal Trade Commission (FTC) today announced a settlement with affiliate marketing firm Rentbro and its two principals, Daniel Pessin and Jacob Engel, over charges for allegedly sending out more than 42.5 million unwanted text messages to consumers. The FTC alleges Pessin and Engel sent deceptive text messages to millions of consumers telling them they had been selected to receive $1,000 gift cards to major retailers such as Best Buy, Target, and Walmart.

A typical message stated, “Your entry in our drawing WON you a FREE $1,000 Target Giftcard! Enter “312” at www.target.com.tgrz.biz to claim it and we can ship it to you immediately!” The included hyperlink brought consumers to a website the defendants created to reinforce the deceptive gift card message and then took them to other third-party websites where they were asked to submit personal information under the guise of claiming their gift cards.

It didn’t end there. Consumers were then told they had to sign up for more than a dozen risky trial offers, none of which was free, to qualify for the promised “free” gift card.

Today’s settlement, which requires the defendants to turn over all of their remaining assets and imposes a partially suspended monetary judgment of $377,321 (the exact amount their scam generated), prohibits them from sending unwanted texts to consumers, from misleading consumers about whether they have won gifts or prizes and whether a product is “free” or without cost or obligation. Of course, all those activities are already prohibited by the law, settlement or not.

The FTC says this case is part of its “continuing crackdown” on spam text messages. “FTC action in cases like this one have dramatically reduced the amount of illegal text message spam, especially as it relates to bogus gift card offers,” FTC Midwest Region Director C. Steven Baker said in a statement. “Not only are spam texts annoying and illegal, but they can also cost consumers money.”

See also – FTC cracks down on 29 scam artists who allegedly sent 180m spam text messages promoting ‘free’ gift cards

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