FTC files complaint against two area companies accused of sending spam text messages

March 14, 2013 8:21:38 PM PDT
You may have gotten spam text messages or unsolicited texts that promise you free gift cards. A pair of Houston-based companies may be responsible for millions of those annoying messages.

If you got one of the unsolicited text messages promising a gift card, you are not alone, more than 180 million were sent out and some of them originated right here in Houston.

Debbie Brewer got text spam messages promising big bucks.

"Ours just said you had to respond with another text to get it," she said.

Brewer's message was one of more than 180 million that went to cell phones nationwide, according to the Federal Trade Commission.

The FTC recently filed eight complaints against 29 defendants who sent out what it calls spam texts. Two of those named by the FTC are in Houston, including the owner of Verma Holdings.

On Thursday, no one was in the company's west Houston office.

The FTC says the text spammers have been shut down.

"I think that is fabulous because I hate extra texts more than I already got any way," said Melissa Summers, another person who's been receiving the text messages.

The text got so bad complaints were pouring into Better Business Bureau.

"BBBs across the nation got complaints on these spam text messages. But we got a lot of inquires as well that did not turn into complaints," said Monica Russo with the Houston Better Business Bureau.

Russo says while the texts promised 1000 dollar gift cards, they were nothing more than attempts to gather personal information.

"Unfortunately, these companies were able to glean a significant amount of information from consumers because of that," she said.

The FTC adds in some cases consumers had to sign up for special offers to qualify for the gift card. Those offers allegedly included subscriptions that required credit card information.

The FTC says the companies violated rules by not explaining the details involved to get the gift card. The FTC says the companies sending the text messages were paid by the amount of subscriptions they generated.

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