In November 2012, I received several complaints from citizens who reported receiving text messages telling them that they won $1,000 gift cards from Target or Walmart. We knew at the time these were scam calls, and I advised people to ignore them.
A lot of us get frustrated at just these kinds of phone scams and wonder if anyone is doing anything about them. It seems someone is paying attention and taking action against some scammers.
I read a media release from the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), dated July 29, which announced the FTC filed complaints against nine defendants involved in various aspects of this particular texting scam. The complaint asks the federal court in Chicago to issue injunctions to stop the practice, and asks the court to order payment of damages by the defendants. The addresses of the defendants are instructive as to how international these kinds of scam are. The defendants are in Florida, Las Vegas, Nevada, Quebec, India and Cyprus.
Consumers who received this message and responded found themselves caught up in a confusing and elaborate process requiring them to provide personal information, apply for credit cards, or subscribe to other services to get these “free” cards. Some consumers reported signing up for as many as 13 other “free” offers, which required payment of more shipping and handling charges, or recurring fees for subscriptions.
In addition, they found their phone numbers signed up to get many more robo-calls or recorded telemarketing calls selling home security, travel or satellite television. These consumers found it impossible to get their “free” gift cards without spending more money. Sounds like a great thing not to get near.
The FTC mission is to prevent fraudulent, deceptive and unfair business practices and educate the public in avoiding them. I encourage anyone with such a complaint to file a complaint with them.