ORLANDO, Fla. - The Federal Trade Commission has landed a sweeping offensive against so-called "affiliate marketers" allegedly sending text spam to bait consumers into giving up personal information in exchange for free gift cards and gifts from Walmart, Best Buy , Target and Apple.
"The offers are in a word garbage," said FTC spokesman Charles A. Harwood.
Harwood, the Acting Director of the Commission's Bureau of Consumer Protection, says the action against 29 individuals and companies essentially says "game over" to the players involved in the gift card scheme.
A review of the FTC complaints by Local 6 found Sanford based Ecommerce Merchants LLC, also known as the Superior Affiliate Management, was linked to some of the 180 million illegal spam texts sent to cell phone consumers over the last year.
The charges against the company and its four managing partners: Cresta Pillsbury, Jan-Paul Diaz, Joshua Brewer and Daniel Stanitski, were filed in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois in Chicago.
Local 6 reporter Mike Holfeld traced the company address and its officers to rental properties in Sanford and Winter Springs.
Although Florida and FTC records list the company and four managers at both locations they are no longer running the business from or residing at either location.
As of March 12, 2013 the properties have been rented to new tenants.
FTC investigators say victims of the scam ended up having to pay for the texts.
According to an FTC statement, the Commission's complaints seek restraining orders "against the defendants preventing them from continuing their alleged deceptive and unfair practices as well as preserving and accounting for their assets."
Investigators say the marketing companies were allegedly paid by the operators of the web sites based on how many consumers eventually entered their personal information.
The FTC does want to hear from you if you get a spam text. You can file a complaint at this link.