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You’ve probably been the victim of a misleading text from one of your favorite companies promising gift cards or other fabulous prizes. By clicking the link, you’d likely have been directed to a web site asking for your personal information, such as social security or credit card number, and rarely leading to an actual reward. But even if you’re lucky enough to end up with an actual gift card, it isn’t free.
In the last year, about 60 percent of cell phone users have received one or more of these spam text messages, with roughly 13 percent clicking the link included in the text. Apparently, people are much more likely to trust and quickly respond to text messages than emails. In 2012, the Federal Trade Commission received seven times as many complaints of spam text messages as in the previous years. Not only does responding to these messages cost people higher charges on their cell phone bills, but providing personal information can also cause people to fall victim to other scams. Collectively, these spam messages have cost consumers millions of dollars. The main problem, however, is that sending such unsolicited messages is illegal under civil laws, especially when these spam messages are sent to numbers on the federal “Do Not Call” registry.
Thus, the FTC filed eight lawsuits against companies that have allegedly issued spam texts, accusing them of ordering and engineering the sending of hundreds of millions of spam messages to cell phone users. The cases consist of 29 named defendants, including 18 individuals the companies hired to send such messages.
The FTC is asking the courts to freeze the assets of the defendants and to issue injunctions prohibiting the spam texts and deceptive claims. Hearings are scheduled for the next few days. In the meantime, cell phone carriers have created a joint depository to prevent spam messages. So forward your next spam text to 7726, report it to the FTC, and delete it without responding.
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