An affiliate marketing company and its two principals have agreed to settle Federal Trade Commission charges for allegedly sending out more than 42.5 million unwanted and deceptive text messages to consumers.

Along with prohibiting the unlawful conduct, the stipulated order against the defendants requires them to turn over all of their remaining assets and imposes a partially suspended monetary judgment of $377,321, which is all of the money received in connection with the scam.

According to the FTC’s complaint, Rentbro Inc., and its principals, Daniel Pessin and Jacob Engel, residents of Ft. Lauderdale, Fla., sent deceptive text messages to millions of consumers telling them they had been selected to receive $1,000 gift cards to major retailers such as Best Buy, Target and Walmart.

A typical message stated, “Your entry in our drawing WON you a FREE $1,000 Target Giftcard!  Enter “312” at to claim it and we can ship it to you immediately!”

The hyperlink included in the text message brought consumers to a Web site the defendants created to reinforce the deceptive gift card message and then to a variety of third-party Web sites where consumers were asked to submit personal information under the guise of claiming their gift cards.  After collecting consumers’ personal information, consumers were told they had to sign up for more than a dozen risky trial offers, none of which was free, to qualify for the promised “free” gift card.  

“FTC action in cases like this one have dramatically reduced the amount of illegal text message spam, especially as it relates to bogus gift card offers” said FTC Midwest Region Director C. Steven Baker. “Not only are spam texts annoying and illegal, but they can also cost consumers money.”

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