The Federal Trade Commission has moved to shut down an illegal spamming operation it says bombarded consumers with millions of text messages, many of which advertised a bogus mortgage modification website called "Loanmod-gov.net."
The FTC has asked a federal judge to freeze the assets of Phillip A. Flora, of Huntington Beach, Calif. Flora, the agency alleges, sent millions of unwanted text messages to consumers, promoting "loan modification" assistance, debt relief, and other related services.In one 40-day period, the FTC says, Flora sent more than 5.5 million spam text messages. That works out to a "mind boggling" rate of 85 texts per minute, every minute, every day, by FTC estimate.
Flora, the FTC says, enriched himself by collecting contact information from consumers who responded to his text messages -- even those who demanded he stop texting them -- and selling that information to marketers, claiming they were "debt settlement leads."
Many of Flora's victims were burned twice, since their mobile carriers often billed them to receive his unsolicited text messages.
The text messages urged consumers to either respond or to visit one of Flora's bogus websites. One of the sites, loanmod-gov.net, echoed the ".gov" top-level domain to fool consumers into believing it was a legitimate U.S. government site.
The site also claimed to provide "Official Home Loan Modification and Audit Assistance Information," and featured an image of the American flag. The loanmod-gov.net name is now for sale by an unknown Portuguese owner, who's asking $1,377 for the "premium domain."
The FTC accused Flora of violating the FTC Act by sending unsolicited commercial text messages to consumers, and lying about a supposed affiliation with a government agency. Flora's advertisement of his text-message blasting services via spam email also violated the CAN-SPAM Act -- a law that regulates commercial email.
Flora's spam email, the FTC says, also failed to include a way for consumers to "opt-out" of future messages and failed to include the physical mailing address of the sender.
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Spammer Sent 'Mind-Boggling' Number of Bogus Texts, FTC Says