Fake Email, Fake News, Fake Business

In one way, the recent FTC action against Tachht Inc. and other Florida defendants is barely worth our attention. It was for a nickel-and-dime scam -- and the settlement was for a mere $1,303,822, only $500,000 of which must be paid at this time. What concerns us is how the technology of email marketing was used to snare the suckers.

Take the email campaign. The Tampa perps sent unsolicited messages, using false headers showing that the sender was “someone who is known to the recipient, such as a friend or family member,” the FTC charged in a civil lawsuit filed last year.  

Of course, the messages were not sent by friends or family, but by affiliate marketers with a firm grip on technology and a loose hold on ethics, if you believe the FTC.

But how ingenious they were. The supposed sending party’s name — say, that of a favorite aunt — would also appear in the subject line, the FTC continued.  

Let’s say a person clicked through, believing the message really was from an aunt. He or she was brought to a fake news site, and there regaled with headlines like “Insider Report: Oprah and Other Celebrities Lost 4 lbs./Week of Belly Fat With This Secret That Our Readers Can Try Now!”, according to the FTC.

At this point, most of us would probably jump off, assuming that Oprah is not our aunt. But let’s say the party clicked through one more time. That’s where the defendants got down to business, the FTC continued.

First, they hyped the product, then said: “CLAIM YOUR FREE BOTTLE TODAY!” And anyone who fell for that line would soon be asked for their name, address, telephone number and email address and would then arrive at a payment page requiring credit or debit card information, the FTC claimed.  

As for the remedies being offered, The FTC put it this way: “In truth and in fact, the Weight-Loss Products do not cause rapid and substantial weight loss.”

A pretty picture. Now let’s go over the legal details. The case was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Florida, Tampa division. The defendants included two companies, Tachht Inc., and Teqqi LLC, and two individuals: Colby Fox and Christopher Reinhold. There was no admission of wrongdoing, and it’s not clear whether all the defendants were involved in any or all parts of the alleged fraud. Litigation against Reinhold continues.

Among other things, the signing defendants have agreed to cease this kind of marketing. And the full amount of the judgment “will become due if they are later found to have misrepresented their financial condition,” the FTC said in an announcement.

So why should legitimate marketers be concerned with this tawdry affair?

For one thing, it reflects badly on the medium. People who think any commercial email they get is spam will have their worst fears confirmed.

But there is a larger lesson here: Don’t provide your list or any other service to such dubious characters. Assuming the allegations are true, how did these guys get their hands on this technology? Somebody had to sell it to them.

Why doesn’t the FTC look into that?


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