A group of affiliate marketers has agreed to settle Federal Trade Commission charges that they blasted consumers with more than 30 million deceptive spam text messages and directed recipients of the spam text messages to deceptive websites.
Cresta Pillsbury, Jan-Paul Diaz, Joshua Brewer and Daniel Stanitski, and their company Ecommerce Merchants, LLC, which did business as Superior Affiliate Management, were among the subjects of a series of FTC complaints filed in March against the senders of text message spam.
The FTC’s complaint alleged that the defendants sent spam text messages to consumers across the country, offering supposedly free iPhones, iPads, and $1000 gift cards to those who clicked on links in the messages. A typical message stated, “FREE MSG: You Have Been Chosen To Test & Keep The New iPad For Free Only Today!! Go To [scam website] And Enter 2244 And Your Zipcode To Claim It Now!”
Those who clicked on the links did not receive the promised items, but were taken instead to sites that requested personal information and required them to sign up for numerous additional offers – often involving other purchases or paid subscriptions.
The stipulated final order against Pillsbury, Diaz, Brewer and Stanitski permanently bans them from any involvement with sending unauthorized or unsolicited text messages. In addition, they are prohibited from deceptively presenting an offer as “free,” or misleading consumers about the use of personal information collected in the process of such an offer or the steps required and costs involved in redeeming it.
The defendants also allegedly operated a network of affiliates who blasted out spam text messages on their behalf. The stipulated final order prohibits defendants from operating an affiliate network for deceptive purposes, and requires them to inform members of any future affiliate network they operate of the terms of the order and to monitor the affiliates to prevent them from conducting deceptive or unfair activities.
The order also contains a monetary judgment of $356,950, which represents the full amount of money the defendants earned from the scam after paying their affiliates. The judgment is suspended due to their inability to pay. It also requires the defendants to cooperate with the FTC in any future investigations.
The court also entered a default judgment against the defendants’ company, Ecommerce Merchants, LLC.