A text message spammer and his company settled federal charges of sending millions of text messages to people across the U.S., falsely promising free $1,000 gift cards to major retailers such as Target, Walmart and Best Buy.
Rishab Verma and his company, Verma Holdings LLC, are permanently banned from sending unwanted or unsolicited commercial text messages or helping others do so, under settlement terms with the Federal Trade Commission.
The operation also cannot misrepresent to consumers that a product is free, that a prize or gift awaits and that personal information such as credit card data and Social Security numbers are needed to claim a product, gift or prize. The settlement includes a monetary judgment of $2,863,000, which is suspended because of the defendants inability to pay after Verma and the company pay $26,100.
Verma, a Houston resident, and his company were among the defendants in the FTC's sweep last year of text message spammers and affiliate marketers.
In March 2013, eight separate complaints were filed in courts across the U.S., charging 29 defendants with collectively sending more than 180 million unwanted text messages to consumers, many of whom had to pay for receiving the texts.
Consumers who clicked on the links in the messages found themselves directed to a "confusing and elaborate process" that required them to provide sensitive personal information, apply for credit or pay to subscribe to services to get the supposedly free cards, according to the FTC.
The sites also required consumers to provide credit card information to sign up for trial offers.
In 2011, Verma, then just 19, pleaded guilty five to felonies related to hacking into Fort Bend (Texas) ISD High School computers to change student grades, attendance records and get teachers personal information.