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FTC Goes After Scammers Who Blasted Millions of Text Messages 79

Posted by samzenpus
from the message-deleted dept.
coondoggie writes "The Federal Trade Commission today said it has filed eight court cases to stop companies who have sent over 180 million illegal or deceptive text messages to all manner of mobile users in the past year. The messages — of which the FTC said it had received some 20,000 complaints in 2012 — promised consumers free gifts or prizes, including gift cards worth $1,000 to major retailers such as Best Buy, Walmart and Target."
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FTC Goes After Scammers Who Blasted Millions of Text Messages

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  • by sidevans (66118) on Friday March 08, 2013 @01:53AM (#43113315) Homepage

    free things don't require a credit card, unless its *only* to verify that you're over 18, then its totally trustworthy!

    • by Anonymous Coward

      I totally agree and would like to subscribe to your free newsletter, as long as it only requires my CC to verify my age.

    • by Anonymous Coward on Friday March 08, 2013 @02:26AM (#43113445)

      to be fair, the text is very similar to the message written at the bottom of all walmart reciepts.
      the first time i recieved one i suspected it was fakse because no one has the number, i never fill out surveys, and i never shop at walmart. they were targeting people that are the exact opposite of me.

      while i didn't know this until i went to walmart recently for the first time in years. the scam is preying on those that are poor enough to apply to the survey in hopes of winning and it is deliberately worded to imply that the reciever has won.

      so go ahead and pat yourself on the back for outsmarting scammers, but please reslize that your smugness is completely unnecessary. the people that did get suckered into it had more pressing concerns, namely their life of poverty.

      • by MrNJ (955045)
        You have cause and effect confused.

        It's possible that "the poor" have no choice but to try desperate means to get out of poverty.
        More likely they are in poverty because their pattern of bad decisions such as falling for the get-rich-quick scams.
    • by Anonymous Coward

      The article doesn't actually say 20,000 people were successfully scammed, just that that many complained. I've sent complaints about unsolicited texts (I've gotten dozens that sound exactly like the article described) to the FTC several times.

      For the record, I've never fallen for a scam like this (or any other, as far as I'm aware). I'm sure I'm not the only one.

    • by xenobyte (446878)

      free things don't require a credit card, unless its *only* to verify that you're over 18, then its totally trustworthy!

      Actually a lot of online 'free sampling' do require a credit card. You sign up for something that is initially free (for a limited time) and unless you opt out before this period ends, you are billed for the first period (usually a month) but recurring. So if you want to pay nothing, just opt out in time. If not, it turns into a regular subscription. This is a fair construct that rely on people being too lazy to opt out (in time).

      • by crakbone (860662)
        I have found the opt out process is usually pretty vague. on the order of being hidden in the basement of the headquarters office, fallen behind the back of a file cabinet guarded by a Siberian tiger and artfully touched up with bit of chewing gum. Or seven pages into a website at the very bottom of five screens of scrolling under a hyperlink marked "other". or a telephone number that is only answered by one lone guy in India between the hours of 2:015 and 2:17am
    • Re: (Score:2, Troll)

      by azav (469988)

      it's = it is

      Learn this.

  • by sylvandb (308927) on Friday March 08, 2013 @02:12AM (#43113399) Homepage Journal

    I'm one of the complainers.

    I complained about getting the spam, not that I paid and did not receive.

    But I'll still settle for just my gift card.

    • I'm one of the complainers.

      I complained about getting the spam, not that I paid and did not receive.

      But I'll still settle for just my gift card.

      Good for one can of Spam at your local grocery store?

    • by fifedrum (611338)

      I'll settle for the President using his war powers to drone strike these bastards. And a gift card. (no, not a victim myself, just someone who hates hates hates spammers and scammers)

  • by Black Parrot (19622) on Friday March 08, 2013 @02:28AM (#43113453)

    who blasted millions of political robocalls last fall?

    • by Aryeh Goretsky (129230) on Friday March 08, 2013 @03:09AM (#43113595) Homepage

      Hello,

      Were those the Political Opinions of America [forbes.com] calls? If so, that's apparently a modified "boiler room" type scam where the goal is to get you to purchase a "free cruise" of the Bahamas out of Florida If you take them up on the offer, apparently you get stuck on a ferry and receive a bunch of high-pressure sales tactics to buy into a time share. Here are a couple of blog entries I wrote about them:

      If you were the victim of such a scam, you might want to get in touch with this law firm [shulaw.com] who is looking into it.

      Regards,

      Aryeh Goretsky

      • The prices have probably changed a bit since the 80s, but at the time it was about $50 for the cruise, so probably the "$59 port tax" they're charging really pays for the cruise. The Bahamas really aren't that far away - the cruise took about 4 hours each way.

        In return for listening to a time-share presentation in Atlantic City, you could get the cruise and a couple of days of hotel in the Bahamas (you had to get yourself to Miami), and my wife and I decided the presentation was a good excuse to drive down

    • by Smallpond (221300)

      Or every hotel in Florida calling my cell to offer "Disney Vacations"

  • by GoodNewsJimDotCom (2244874) on Friday March 08, 2013 @02:36AM (#43113489)
    I think the FBI should crack down on people scamming in general.

    Look at free credit report, they bill your credit card even though they say it is free. They should be fined all their assets, shut down, and people who signed up with them refunded if that last part is possible.

    Robo calls make me not want to own a phone at all. I get a couple each week, and they distract me from day. Today one woke me up. Robo calls should be illegal, including political robo calls.

    There should be a way to disable text messages on phones. The phone company's dirty secret is that they over charge for text messages so they don't want to provide this service. Every time some spammer sends me scam bait, it costs me .10.

    Phishers, and all those email scams should be looked into by the FBI too.

    Look at the people who mail everyone who signs up for a webpage with a bill for their webpage making them think it comes from their webhost, but it is actually a scammer wanting money.

    I'm pretty sure it always wasn't this way, but today, it seems like a large portion of incoming communication is from someone who wants to scam you. I can understand not being able to shut down some threats out of the country, but a lot of these things come from inside the country.
    • by Widowwolf (779548)
      "Look at free credit report, they bill your credit card even though they say it is free."


      It is completely free, as long as you cancel within 7 days of getting your report..It says you get it free with the signup of their service, and you wouldn't be charged unless you forget to call and cancel..Right at top of the page


      IMPORTANT INFORMATION When you order your $1 Credit Report and Score here, you will begin your 7-day trial membership in freecreditreport.com. If you don't cancel your membership wi
      • What you don't mention is how difficult it is to cancel said trial period.
        • by Widowwolf (779548)
          So..Life is difficult.Jobs are hard...should the FCC investigate them? All I did was call the #, tell them to cancel.Said no 4 times, Reiterated to cancel it, received confirmation #..not that bad.
          • So..Life is difficult.Jobs are hard...should the FCC investigate them?

            All I did was call the #, tell them to cancel.Said no 4 times, Reiterated to cancel it, received confirmation #..not that bad.

            Life is too short to waste going round and round with "Retention Services".

            These days, I'd rather not opt in to begin with.

            • by Widowwolf (779548)
              So go pay full price and dont sign up for this site specifically..Its not that hard..That's what happened to America..Instead of working for shit, people think everything should be free
              • So go pay full price and dont sign up for this site specifically..Its not that hard..That's what happened to America..Instead of working for shit, people think everything should be free

                Who said I was thinking specifically about freebies? I've avoided a lot of services after the 6-month fight it took to get out of IBM's ISP service. It was good while it lasted, but the time came when something better came along and it was sheer murder switching off. They kept switching it back on, trying to push me into special trial periods, etc., etc., etc. ENOUGH already!

          • by Applekid (993327)

            So..Life is difficult.Jobs are hard...should the FCC investigate them?

            All I did was call the #, tell them to cancel.Said no 4 times, Reiterated to cancel it, received confirmation #..not that bad.

            Is there any legal standards for cancelling a subscription? If I opened up a service that offered a free trial and my cancellations department was one guy who only answered one call between 3:03:00 am and 3:03:15 am, Monday through Wednesday excluding holidays, would that still be acceptable?

    • by Widowwolf (779548)
      "Robo calls make me not want to own a phone at all. I get a couple each week, and they distract me from day. Today one woke me up. Robo calls should be illegal, including political robo calls."

      Because every lawmaker will vote for that..


      "There should be a way to disable text messages on phones. The phone company's dirty secret is that they over charge for text messages so they don't want to provide this service. Every time some spammer sends me scam bait, it costs me .10."

      You do realize there is a
    • The one that I find weird is the "Windows Technical Support" scam. 3 times now I've had this kind of phone call in which a live person assures me that they've detected that my computer is infected. The 1st time, I strung him along a bit to see where it was leading. They want you to download and run some software from a particular website, which of course really will infect your computer.

      The parts that amazed me were the sheer brazenness of the whole thing, and that evidently there's enough money to be made from infecting computers that it's worth paying call centers to have live people make thousands of attempts at this social engineering. They are so clearly, obviously criminal, yet they weren't shut down immediately. What of the much vaunted ability to track down copyright infringement, in order to empower 3 strikes laws? Are these operations really so hard to find and shut down? Must be, or Rachel from Cardholder Services would have been silenced years ago, though the criminality of that one wasn't as immediately obvious. I suppose it's to be expected that those who run call center operations have no scruples.

      • by richy freeway (623503) on Friday March 08, 2013 @08:18AM (#43114487)
        That's not the scam at all. The software they get you to download is some remote control software, usually legitimate. Something like Teamviewer or Logmein. They then proceed to show you all the "problems" in the event viewer and offer to sell you software and remote support (which you don't need).

        I've had quite a few computers come through my workshop where a customer has fallen for this scam. Never found any viruses. The scam is them taking money off you for absolutely nothing. Whether or not they then resell the credit card details, I don't know. But I know that they take payments of anything upwards of £90.
        • by Anonymous Coward

          If you refuse to pay for their software, they proceed to disable services, set security policies etc. to make the system unusable. They then shutdown or reboot, so that you can actually see that your system is unusable.

          • I've yet to see any evidence of this. Most of our customers have been savvy enough to just terminate the call and end the remote desktop session when they start asking for money. Not saying it doesn't happen, but I've never seen it.
            • by Anonymous Coward

              I've yet to see any evidence of this. Most of our customers have been savvy enough to just terminate the call and end the remote desktop session when they start asking for money. Not saying it doesn't happen, but I've never seen it.

              Check out this video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u7zuQ8mYpog [youtube.com] where it shows they start deleting files as soon the guy question their purpose of the service they offer.

        • by Anonymous Coward

          grab banking and other financial information.

          This one old lady I helped said they called, she let them into her system, they then proceded to look into various directories, she saw files being opened, and when she realized what they were doing, she hit the power button. She called her bank and the bank closed all her accounts and reopened new ones for her.

          Those people who trick people into remote access are dirtbags, scammers, and crooks and should be shot.

          Your clients were just lucky.

          • Oh I've had my fair share of stupid customers who have actually handed over anything from about £90 to £200 for a years worth of "protection" and "support". They just don't get anything for their money at all.

            I've even known people who don't own a computer get calls from the scammers.
      • What of the much vaunted ability to track down copyright infringement, in order to empower 3 strikes laws? Are these operations really so hard to find and shut down?

        No and no. The problem is that if your FCC is anything like Canada's CRTC, they just simply don't give a fuck. (Or in their words, they're powerless and can't even find who is making the calls)

        Marketplace (CBC investigation/consumer rights TV program) had absolutely no problem tracking down and embedding a journalist [www.cbc.ca] in an offshore telemarketing

    • You might want to change numbers and use a free online service like Google Voice when registering for something. Since taking that approach upon getting my current number 2.5 years ago, I've only gotten 1-2 spam texts/year and the rare unwanted calls are from locals trying to reach somebody else.

      • Well you know Verizon and Comcast put you on their own personal phone book, and then sell that information to mass marketers? You can ask to be hidden, but that costs 5$/month to recoup the lost revenue they get from selling off your name/number.

        These people don't actually know who their calling when they call this number, so they frequently ask,"Hello, is this ?"

        So I've gotten to the point where I need to ninja answer my phone,"Hello, who may I ask is speaking?". This puts them on the defense, and th
    • by dissy (172727)

      I pretty much agree with most of your post.
      I'm going to skip the parts I disagree with, and instead offer some advice I've gained in my own experience.

      BTW I can't help but laugh at the idiot anon replies attempting their lame insults of not living in a civilized country. But that's par for the course on slashdot! Nothing useful to offer, so offer the most useless of replies to waste our bandwidth.
      So on to stopping people from wasting your bandwidth ;}

      Personally, I've gone through some pretty extreme measu

    • by Threni (635302)

      > Every time some spammer sends me scam bait, it costs me .10.

      I still don't understand why people use phone companies who charge you to receive spam. It just doesn't happen in the UK at all.

      Surely the simplest way to prevent most of the stuff you mentioned is to defer payment for 3 months (from the phone companies to the spammers) so you have ample time to check and dispute items on your bill. Word would go out for other customers to check their bills, and if a company is found to be doing this wrongf

    • by jittles (1613415)
      Uhh most companies will let you disable incoming and outgoing text messages right on your account management page of their website. And all of the US ones let you call and disable text messages at any time. So I'm not sure where you are pulling the SMS thing from, but its not true. You can definitely have it disabled.
  • The messages I got were transparently bogus. Why couldn't Verizon and ATT just block the messages? Or perhaps the question is why wouldn't they stop them? Is it because they collected 20 cents from every message, times maybe many millions of messages? Well, they do collect from anyone without a text plan at least.
  • by Zadaz (950521) on Friday March 08, 2013 @02:52AM (#43113547)

    So that repeat robocall to my cell phone only needs to call 179 million more times before they'll take action.

  • by Skapare (16644) on Friday March 08, 2013 @03:29AM (#43113643) Homepage

    The law we need is one that provides a clear and accurate source of the message or phone call. It must identify the phone company that took the message or call from a customer, and also identify the customer, except in the few special cases the government allows blocking ID (never for commercial businesses). Any phone company failing to provide this identity accurately assumes all responsibility for every message or call made as if they made it themselves.

  • You mean I didn't just win £750,000 in a lottery I never heard of and never entered????
  • by mark-t (151149) <markt@lynx.b c . ca> on Friday March 08, 2013 @03:58AM (#43113719) Journal

    ... now if they can only go after the people who seem to always spam me with text-message ads for "hookup" websites, which I am presuming are catering to people wanting to get lucky with somebody else local for them.

    My wife has received 2 of these, and I've received 5 since the beginning of this year, each time from a different phone number, but always for the same website (each individual message claiming to be from a different person, however.)

    Damn annoying, because we can't seem to do anything about it. At least we both have an unlimited text plan though, so it's not costing us any money. Still frustrating when you get a message and you think it's important and it turns out to be just spam, though.

  • Filling out all those federal complaint forms actually accomplished something? I just did it out of frustration and because I knew spam texts hadn't been legalized yet.
    Marketers have to buy their legislation like everyone else.
  • I've received this kind of SPAM already twice just after I fell into sleep. That's quite annoying. Beside the fact it woke me up, it usually drives me into rage that I couldn't sleep again afterwards for half an hour.

    For example the last text I got was this:

    Congrat! Your mobile number has WON £4,000,000 from the United Nation Grant. Email your name and cell number to ***@******.COM for claim "Keep Confidential*

    In both cases the number was a random one from a foreign country. I'm now searching an app to stop the alarm if the number was a foreign one. Then the spammers find a way to send from local numbers... :-/

  • Paying for texts! I recently upgraded at a plan with texts included, and I stopped getting those. I had been getting one or two a week at 20 or 25 cents a pop.

  • by Rhys (96510) on Friday March 08, 2013 @09:09AM (#43114683) Homepage

    Just like the did for lowering my credit card rates with Rachiel. Or the asshat foghorn cruise captain. Or how my vehicle warranty is expiring.

    This isn't a hard problem to solve. Mandate the phone companies build in a star-spam sequence you can fire during (or right after) a call to have that caller marked as spamming, just like gmail. Get so many complaints, phone company hands you over to FTC for investigation. Phone company doesn't hand them over and then when the FTC does get them, the fine is double (triple? 10x? Whatever factor needed to make it hurt) whatever the revenue from the scam was.

    Not rocket science. But as long as the phone companies profit from the scammers, you better believe this will continue to be a problem.

  • I once won $200 off the purchase of a $400 set of luggage!

  • Why do we have to pay for incoming txt's?

    I have to block TXTing so I don't get billed for them.

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