Stupid Is as Stupid Does
A recent settlement between the United States Federal Trade Commission and Rentbro, Inc., an email spammer, reminded me of the famous line from the motion picture, Forrest Gump, “Stupid is as stupid does.”
The Internet has undoubtedly spawned more rip-offs and scams than any other media in history. Seemingly one crook after another has bilked innocent consumers of hard earned money. People in the millions have been robbed and the thieves have, in turn, made many more millions in ill-gotten gains. And we continue to receive daily spam with yet another deceptive come-on.
But this has been going on for nearly 20 years. At what point do the scammers figure out getting away with it isn’t so simple anymore. But then again, when will consumers get it through their thick skulls that an offer too good to be true, isn’t true. The FTC v. Rentbro begs the question: Who is dumber – the scammer or the consumer?
According to the FTC, Rentbro sent out over 42.5 million text messages. The text told consumers that they had been selected to receive $1,000 gift cards to major retailers such as Best Buy, Target, and Walmart. As the FTC reported in its press release on the settlement, a typical message read, “Your entry in our drawing WON you a FREE $1,000 Target Giftcard! Enter ‘312’ at www.target.com.tgrz.biz to claim it and we can ship it to you immediately!”
The FTC explained, “The hyperlink included in the text message brought consumers to a website the defendants created to reinforce the deceptive gift card message and then to a variety of third-party websites 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.”
In the settlement, Rentbro and two of its owners agreed to stop the unlawful conduct, turn over all of their remaining assets in two bank accounts, and pay the FTC $377,321, which the FTC said is all of the money received in connection with the scam. Interestingly, the FTC also agreed that if two bank accounts contained less than $377,321, the balance would be suspended “premised upon the truthfulness, accuracy, and completeness of Defendants’ sworn financial statements and related documents … submitted to the Commission…” So now we believe what the spam scammers tell us?
How the cohorts in Rentbro thought no one would catch them despite the blatantly false and deceptive nature of their spam scam is inexplicable. Very stupid, particularly when they tried to pull it off in the United States where the FTC has been hammering spam scammers for years. But has anyone ever said people like the defendants in FTC v. Rentbro are intelligent people in the first place? Stupid is as stupid does.
But what about the consumer? While nothing excuses the behavior of the defendants, don’t you ask yourself how consumers could be so stupid to start shelling out information and dollars before getting anything “free”? I can understand people dumb enough to turn over personal information even when an offer is clearly a scam to anyone with an IQ about 100. Consumers still do that foolishly every day. But to start paying for a host of other “risky” offers and apparently never receiving the $1,000 gift card has to make you think. Stupid is as stupid does?
But kudos to the FTC for shutting down yet another spam scammer. Too bad they didn’t punish them more. Bottom line: given the never ending stupidity of both sides of such transactions, I hope the FTC has a very healthy budget to chase the scammers because it looks like consumers just can’t learn.
Stupid is as stupid does.
We Expert Doug Wood