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The FTC has gone to court in an effort to shut down an operation that allegedly blasted consumers with more than five million illegal spam text messages, including many pitching loan modification help, debt relief, and other services.  The agency also has charged that the defendant marketed his text message services with email that violated the CAN-SPAM Act.

According to the FTC, here’s how the operation worked.  When people responded to the defendant’s texts — even when they sent messages telling him to stop sending them messages — he allegedly sold their wireless phone numbers to marketers as “debt settlement leads.”  The FTC also alleges that many people who received the messages were sent to an official-looking site that claimed to offer “Official Home Loan Modification and Audit Assistance Information.”  Through an online form, homeowners were directed to input details about their mortgages.  They were assured that the purpose was so the company could conduct a “forensic loan audit.”

The FTC alleges that the law violations didn’t end there.  According to the complaint, the defendant marketed his text messaging services with email touting his ability to “send out 200k text messages a day.”  However, says the FTC, that email didn’t include an opt-out mechanism and the sender’s physical mailing address, as required by the CAN-SPAM Act.

The complaint, filed in federal court in Los Angeles, charges that the defendant violated the FTC Act by sending consumers unsolicited commercial text messages.  What’s particularly troubling, says the FTC, is that many consumers get stuck paying fees to their mobile carriers to receive the unwanted messages.  The FTC also has alleged that the defendant deceptively represented an affiliation with a government agency.  In addition, the FTC has charged that email promoting the defendants text services violated the CAN-SPAM Act.

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