Text spammers and FTC reach $4.2 million deal

Two so-called "affiliate marketing scammers" charged by the Federal Trade Commission in a crackdown on spam texts settled their cases, agreeing to a $4.2 million judgment and a ban on sending unsolicited texts, the FTC announced today.

The FTC said Advert Marketing and its principals Scott A. Dalrymple of Pennsylvania and Robert Jerrold Wence of Texas were part of a scam that involved sending millions of unsolicited text messages to consumers nationwide offering "free" $1,000 gift cards to such retailers as Target (TGT), Walmart (WMT) and Best Buy (BBY). Instead of getting the cards, consumers were led to a series of free-trial offers that collected their credit card numbers. Dalrymple and Wence were among 29 defendants charged in a series of cases announced in March 2013.

Even though the settlement calls for a payment of $4.2 million, the bulk of that will be suspended if Dalrymple and Wence each pay $15,000. They must also destroy all consumer data they collected from running the text messaging scam.

The scam was particularly annoying to consumers who were led down a road of seemingly endless trial offers and credit card applications to reach that elusive gift card. If they did manage to get to the end of a series of more than a dozen applications, the FTC said the consumer would then be told to get the card they'd have to get three more people to do the same as they did.

It's illegal to send unsolicited advertisements by text message. Here are some tips to avoid trouble from unwanted texts:

  • Don't click on links. They could lead you to sites that could load malware onto your device.
  • Don't provide any personal details requested in a text message, such as account numbers or your Social Security number. Companies will not ask you for such information that way.
  • Make sure your cell phone number is entered in the National Do Not Call Registry.
  • Report spam texts to your mobile phone provider, and file complaints with the FTC or the Federal Communications Commission.