WASHINGTON, March 7 (UPI) -- U.S. regulators say they've targeted marketers sending millions of spam text messages trying to steer consumers to websites falsely promising "free" gift cards.
In complaints filed in courts around the United States, the Federal Trade Commission has charged 29 defendants with collectively sending more than 180 million unwanted text messages to consumers, many of whom had to pay for receiving the texts.
The messages promised consumers free gifts or prizes, including gift cards worth $1,000 from major retailers such as Best Buy, Walmart and Target.
Consumers who clicked on the links in the messages found themselves having to provide sensitive personal information, apply for credit or pay to subscribe to services to get the supposedly "free" cards, an FTC release said Thursday.
"Today's announcement says 'game over' to the major league scam artists behind millions of spam texts," Charles A. Harwood, Acting Director of the FTC Bureau of Consumer Protection, said in the release. "The FTC is committed to rooting out this deception and stopping it. For consumers who find spam texts on their phones, delete them, immediately. The offers are, in a word, garbage."
The complaints filed by the FTC targeted both defendants who sent the unwanted text messages and those who operated the allegedly deceptive websites.
The defendants sent text messages to random phone numbers, including to consumers who do not have a text message subscription plan and thus had to pay to receive the message, the FTC said.