FTC Goes After Internet Scammers

     CHICAGO (CN) – Internet spammer-scammers offering freed iPads and $1,000 gift cards are taking private information from victims and selling it to robocallers, the FTC claims in court.
     The Federal Trade Commission sued six business and three people, in a five-county federal complaint.
     Named as defendants are Acquinity Interactive, 7657030 Canada Inc. dba Acquinity Interactive, Acquinity president Garry Jonas, Revenue Path E-Consulting Private, its CEO Sarita Somani, Revenuepath Limited, Worldwide Commerce Associates, Firebrand Group, and its president Matthew Beucler.
     “Since at least June 2011, and continuing to the present, the Acquinity defendants and Revenue Path defendants have offered to consumers purportedly free merchandise, such as $1,000 gift cards to large retailers, and products such as an Apple iPad. The Acquinity and Revenue Path defendants have advertised the promised free merchandise on various websites they operate, including freegiftyards.com, gadgetsngifts.com, get-goodies.com, and logic-boxes.com,” the lawsuit states.
     “The Acquinity and Revenue Path defendants attract consumers to the free merchandise websites through various means, including unsolicited commercial electronic text messages, that are sent directly or through third parties acting on behalf of and for the benefit of the Acquinity and Revenue Path defendants. The Acquinity and Revenue Path defendants, either directly or through an intermediary, pay third parties for driving consumer traffic to the free merchandise websites through text message spam. The Acquinity and Revenue Path defendants are responsible for the transmission and content of this text message spam.
     “Many such text messages represent, expressly or by implication, that the consumer receiving the message has won a contest, or has been specially selected to receive a gift or prize. For example, the text messages contain statements such as: ‘You WON! Go to www.prizeconfirm.com to claim your $1000 Walmart Gift Card Now!’ or ‘FREE MSG: you have been chosen to test & keep the new iPad for free only today!! Go to http://testnkeepcell.com and enter 2244 and your zipcode to claim it now!'”
     Many victims are charged for each text message they get, the FTC says.
     And if they do sign up for the allegedly free stuff, they must provide private financial information, but the defendants “do not clearly and conspicuously disclose the costs and obligations associated with participating in the third-party promotions.”
     The complaint continues: “The consumer usually must complete a total of thirteen offers in order to qualify for the promised free merchandise. Clicking on each offer reveals what the consumer must do to ‘complete’ or ‘participate in’ the offer. In most cases, completing an offer entails paying money or incurring some other obligation, such as applying and qualifying for credit cards.”
     The defendants then sell this information to third parties, who “use this information to send those consumer prerecorded voice messages through telephone calls,” the FTC says.
     “The free merchandise websites fail to clearly and conspicuously disclose that consumers’ personal contact information will be transferred to third parties and then used to deliver prerecorded messages to consumers.”
     The FTC says the defendants violate the FTC Act and the Telemarketing Sales Rule. It wants their assets frozen and the operation of their businesses enjoined.

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