FTC asks court to shut down text spammer

The California operation sent out 85 text spams a minute during one 40-day stretch, the FTC alleges

The U.S. Federal Trade Commission has asked a judge to shut down an alleged text-messaging spam operation that sent out 85 text messages per minute at its peak, the agency said Wednesday.

The alleged operation of Phillip A. Flora pitched loan modification assistance, debt relief and other services, the FTC said in a news release. During one 40-day period, beginning in August 2009, Flora's operation sent more than 5.5 million spam texts, a "mind boggling" rate of about 85 a minute, the FTC said in court documents.

One website the operation directed customers to claimed to offer "official" home loan modification services and displayed a photo of the U.S. flag, the FTC said.

Many consumers targeted by Flora had to pay fees to their mobile carriers for the unwanted text messages, the FTC said.

Flora collects information from consumers who respond to the text messages, even those asking him to stop sending messages, the FTC alleged. He sells their contact information to marketers as customers interested in debt settlement, the FTC said.

Several consumers targeted called the texts harassing, the FTC said in court documents.

"Many recipients' wireless handsets audibly notify the recipient when a text message is received," the FTC's complaint said. "Many recipients of Defendant Flora's text message spam received that spam in the late-night or early-morning hours or while at work or school."

The IDG News Service was unable to contact Flora, of Huntington Beach, California,

The FTC, in court documents made public Wednesday, has asked the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California to freeze the spam operation's assets.

The FTC's complaint charged Flora with violating the FTC Act by sending unsolicited commercial text messages to consumers, and by misrepresenting that he was affiliated with a government agency. The agency also alleged that he advertised his text message services by sending consumers e-mail spam that violated the CAN-SPAM Act, a law that sets rules for sending commercial e-mail.

The FTC alleged that his e-mail spam failed to include a way for consumers to opt out of future messages and failed to include the physical mailing address of the sender, as required by the spam law.

Tags U.S. Federal Trade CommissionantispamtelecommunicationsecurityregulationlegalCivil lawsuitsgovernmentmobileU.S. District Court for the Central District of CaliforniaPhillip A. Flora

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Grant Gross

IDG News Service

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