The past month it seems, there are more and more companies settling with various government agencies. Adteractive just settled for $650,000 with the FTC for promotion of other “free” (but not so) promotions and Azoogleads has had their wrists slapped by the Florida AG for $1 Million for marketing of ringtone programs. but it looks like it’s getting worse. A new rash of online ads promoting mobile subscription clubs has recently appeared and not only are these ads extremely deceptive, they are also targeting minors. Take a look at This is a site that enrolls users into a weekly horoscope club (that costs $5.99 per week for 1 message! Thats over $20 per month for just 4 messages a month!). If you were marketing to adults, would you be asking the user if they’re a “boy” or “girl” on the landing page?

Next, take a look at The lover calculator. This is the same company promoting the same horoscope subscriptions, except what they’ve done here, is in order to prevent the user from ever seeing the price, the nearly invisible text at the upper-right corner, they have put the appearance of the pricing on a 4-second delay. Just enough time for the user to click on whether they’re male or female and never see the price at all.

Next, take a look at Another example of the same company. gets most of their traffic from their myspace placement, and on that placement specifically, they have made the pricing information at the top of the site nearly invisible. Link to their myspace traffic – Or just go to and you’ll see an ad in the lower right google box.

The company behind all of these sites is called Mobile Messenger, and the examples above are a very small sample of the sites that they power, some of the others being even more deceptive that the examples given here. Ripoff report shows 34 complaints, most of them from the last few weeks, far greater than any of the guys hawking ringtone subscription programs. If any AG wants to go after another high-profile target generating millions of dollars per month by defrauding consumers and targeting children, this is a pretty good start. Or, you could go after all the mobile carriers that are supporting these scams, because at the end of the day, they get to keep 50% of the revenue that even Mobile Messenger generates.

By Jeremy Schoemaker

Jeremy "ShoeMoney" Schoemaker is the founder & CEO of ShoeMoney Media Group, and to date has sold 6 companies and done over 10 million in affiliate revenue. In 2013 Jeremy released his #1 International Best selling Autobiography titled "Nothing's Changed But My Change" - The ShoeMoney Story. You can read more about Jeremy on his wikipedia page here.

61 thoughts on “Ringtones Aren’t the Biggest Scam Anymore”
  1. Wow, that’s pretty serious when you get slapped for $1 mil. Maybe they should be more discerning on some of these scammy offers.

  2. $1 million is worth nothing to these guys. Imagine if shoe can make that in a couple of months, these guys must be pulling in 100x that each week

  3. And then you make this post… Sounds a bit like a hypocrit to me since you as well decepted children.

  4. There are too many legit and ethical ways to make money, that it’s a shame some people operate on this level.

  5. There are too many legit ways to make money that it’s a shame some have to operate on this level.

  6. RipOff report won’t mean crap compared to all the industry leaders and managers catching this post before their breakfast.

  7. wow that is crazy – it is really deceptive – they have the agreement at the end but knowing kids and teens they really wont read them – its really deceptive

  8. The biggest scam out there is paypal on most days, look them up on that fraud report site. They don’t even try to hide that if a buyer does a chargeback illegaly they still screw the seller. (the chargeback takes the money from paypal, paypal passes the loss to the seller).

    You should write a protect yourself from paypal article shoe. Step #1 – create a checking account for paypal ONLY. Transfer funds to that account ONLY. the second the funds hit the account, transfer them from there to your real checking account.

    Why? because Paypal goes so far as to go into your bank account to get money from a chargeback even if theres proof the seller delivered in full…. now thats a real scam!

  9. I have never even seen any of these offers before, but I have to agree!

    Seriously, if you are stupid enough to sign up for goddamn horoscopes or crap and not even read the fine print before you do, you deserve to be ripped off. I don’t give a damn if its kids you’re talking about. When I was a kid we didn’t do stupid stuff or if we did, we knew what we were getting in to. They are learning a lesson, and at $5,99/week, its a pretty cheap one.

    So yeah, it is a rip off. Who gives a damn? What isn’t a ripoff? Is you electricity bill a ripoff? Are gas prices in Europe a ripoff? I don’t want to be ripped off with a negative CC balance every time I stop at the gas station. So what do I do?? I take the train. If you don’t want to get ripped off with a big mobile phone bill, GUESS WHAAAAT…. don’t enter your phone number in every other random form on the web, and if you do, don’t be surprised about the results.

    Can’t figure out how to unsubscribe? Kind of reminds me of people who can’t figure out how to cancel paypal subscriptions from their paypal account. Sorry guys, there is only one option for you. Suicide. Because nobody wants your stupid @$$ in this world.

  10. I agree that the Feds and the States ought to go after these companies. My question is when they pay the $1mil fine, where does that money go and to what purpose???

  11. Bigger the company more the problems! At least they have enough money and connections to solve it.

  12. Okay, but the thing is, how can a kid / teenager pay for services like that?

    I run a free dating site for teens, mostly they are 18, do they have paypal by 18 ? *shrugs*

    Are they alive as for eCommerce? I’m 18 as well, but at least I’m into making websites, buying domains, etc..

  13. The 4 second delay thing is pretty sneaky… Talk about loopholes.

    This type of stuff, I dont like to promote.

  14. LOL. Good times. Sometimes it’s easy to promote offers without really thinking about the effect it has on others. I’ve been down that road before as well.

  15. Ohh.. PS I love how the lover calc is still an affiliate link! 😀 LOL Good times.

  16. Unfortunately there will always be deceptive wolves out there trying to take advantage of naive kids and unsuspecting affiliates. Thanks Shoe for helping get the word out. That’s the way to fight these scammers on our open and unregulated (as it should be) Internet.

  17. it comes down to the consumer just being careful. as a marketer, i check out these types of sites and always look at their TOS. usually there’s something way at the bottom about recurring fees or required payments, and what-not. either way, deceiving and ripping off customers is not a good long-term business model. even for paypal…

  18. I ran and still run a ringtones site – not that I make more than a 1000 dollars a year out of it now and I’m in the top ten of google search for ringtones!

    I sold subscriptions and was called by my friends for ‘ripping off kids’ but I always countered by saying that people will try and rip them off all their lives and if they learn a harsh lesson at an early age it might stick and they will be more wary in the future.

  19. The scam is happening here in Australia too. The international company that is running it is called Mobile Messenger and they link up with all the major mobile service providers (I’m with 3 mobile). They have a call center set up here in Sydney that is specifically devoted to calls from people trying to find out how to stop this service once they see it appear on their bill. To get a weekly horoscope sms delivered to my mobile (for the incorrect star sign mind you!), I am charged $6.60 per message. On the website, you’ll find call center numbers for several countries, the US, Canada, UK, Ireland and New Zealand. They appear to have offices in Australia, the US, New Zealand and India. They wouldn’t give me the exact address for security reasons, I said “I bet”. I do have their Australian Business Number though (a number used for taxation purposes) if anyone wants it.

    The company was set up in 1999 (according to the website) and has grown exponentially by scamming people, but remember, this is with the cooperation of the telcos who get a kick back from them as well. They also comply with the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (according to the very cheeky “customer service” operator I spoke with), and I’m more than welcome to go to the Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman. Judging from the cockiness of the company, they’ve got all the legal side of it stitched up.

    The site I supposedly signed up on was and the only time you get to see any terms and conditions is a link on the last page which has a timer on it – you have to submit the pin code they sent you on your phone in 2 minutes or you won’t ever know your perfect match, and the terms and conditions page which you have to click on (the tick box to agree to it is pre ticked of course) brings up a small window with the terms and conditions. The part about being charged anything is quite a way in, it’s 7 pages long in Word! So you’re meant to read that in 2 minutes? The guy I spoke to said it’s all made very clear on the website. It does have all the info in it though, I just looked at it then using a fake mobile number (then messaged that number just in case).

    These people are low life scum, I’ll grant you that, but the fact is that the profit driven system we live in totally supports this kind of behavior. It’s not that different to your boss cajoling you into working overtime and then not paying you for it. So while it might make us feel a bit better relating our experiences here, this sort of shit will continue until we collectively do something about it; not just these vermin scammers and the telcos, but the whole rotten system of capitalism.

  20. so now, instead of doing it yourself you are getting commission from these companies to bring them more affiliates…
    I can see all the ringtone affiliates joining in hordes to these programs.

  21. It’s even harder to fight it and part with even more (plus lawyer fees). Plus, ringtones aren’t as deceptive as some of these other things.

  22. Business is Business, everything is a scam really. Ringtones, horoscopes, wealth building, make money on adwords/adsense kits, pay day loans, car titles for loans with 500% interest rates – what isn’t a scam? Just ask yourself, what really isn’t a scam in marketing? Chevys red tag event, i’d say it’s a scam, because they’re showing you $50,000 trucks and saying they’re $33,500, but the fine print says the model shown was $50,000, mis leading consumers into believing they can get a nice Tahoe like the on in the commercial for $33,500.

    You just have to be aware of everything you do these days, read the fine print, that really in general stops 90% of confusion.

  23. Oh my, this is slick!

    Without question shady!

    Very nice how it fits just perfectly on my laptop screen and I can’t see the T&C at the bottom of the page….

  24. What everybody is leaving out is that these blaitant persistant violations of compliance standards have destroyed one of the greatest performance verticals in the history of the intenet. Lawmakers are on a mission to lock them out of the new mobile web which has 4 times the users.I believe the Carriers at some point soon will use all the information gathered by the Government to disable 3rd party billing totally. Basically announcing that internet marketers and these ringtone advertisers are a threat to the consumer.. I don’t think they will pick a favorite advertiser in the space to avoid litigation by the others.. Its very asshole thinking by compliant advertiser that they will be in bed with the carriers.. The carriers have bigger fish to fry like free voice by google as incentive to use the new mobile web.. A classic case of a few bad apples spoil the whole vertical..

    This problem persists in most verticals though, publishers who are weak at conversions scam to get more interest there affiliate networks don’t care cause there getting paid on the sales of others.. The advertiser is trying to save money and wants sales and really dosent know what to do till its to late in the end the adveretisers see their death and mostly join in the action until its over..

    I spoke to an exec recently at Verizon who said in jest” I put you on this earth and I can take you out anytime. The Feds are here to reccomend the carriers stop 3rd party billing.. They dont give a crap about azoogle or adteractive there just pawns in the bigger picture.. They are not here to clean up the space! the space is over so I say time to go back to Viagra boys & girls…

  25. Looks like these jokers already updated their lover calculator page and the price isn’t randomly appearing after 4 seconds. Shoe if at the least you get these guys to update their sites to be a little less deceptive, then you’ve done your job.

  26. Finally someone with some sense. They aren’t really scams just people who need larger glasses.

  27. Yeah, thats part of the scam…since they are targetting teens etc on myspace, they need something for them to look at which doesnt make them think “Hell NO! I’m not joining this piece of junk”

  28. hahah thats funny… I did not notice that (its not mine) but reguardless… after reading this post I would love to see the conversion rate =P

  29. Gene, you’ve got ads for FREE RINGTONES on your site that redirect to that also says free and no price on the page at all. Did the Verizon exec you spoke to know that you were working with advertisers that don’t follow the rules?

  30. Eli,
    Do you recall that ad campaign for RIF? You know Reading Is Fundamental!
    You need to read man: This is a Complimentary mobile content offering. No subscription or purchase is required. You will receive a complimentary mobile download. The content is presented as-is. Standard carrier charges may apply. Product and company names mentioned herein may be a trademark or trade names of their respective owners. Artist names and images are for identification only. Customers who choose to subscribe get 10 download credits + 10 bonus credits in the 1st month for only $9.99/mo. Age 18+ or bill payer’s permission required. I wont even explain the 728 to you. Its just to rookie to mis..

  31. Eli,
    Yes theres Shoe now” riding in on his horse from mutual of Omaha to save us all from scumbag publishers, networks and advertisers who are greed driven & without the word free couldn’t sell their way out of a paper bag… So naive! and lookin for some Shoebooty love…lol

  32. […] piece of pie. I wanted to blog about ringtones some day and just never got to it, but after reading Shoemoney today, I figured it was time. I have quite a few thoughts about ringtones and where they’re going, […]

  33. We at Mobile Messenger would like to assist you with your concern or complaint. If you need assistance in regards to being unsubscribed or other related issues, please do not hesitate to contact us. Please call 1-800-416-6129 Monday to Friday 0600 – 1800 US Pacific Time or email For assistance in Australia, please call 1300-766 915 Monday to Friday 0900 – 1700 EST or email

    Mobile Messenger

  34. my daughter was searching the internet, some how signed up for ringers on 2 sites, when i got my phone bill, i have 50.00 excharges for these ringers , for one, she never got the ringers, i called sprint, my carrier, they cant help me. talk about a rip off, they all 14 yr olds sign up for what? things they dont understand, and i was clueless too until i got my phone bill. i didnt think this could happen by simply typing in a phone number on a site. and now i cant figure out how to get my money back.

  35. Mobile Messenger is a scam that the PHONE COMPANIES/WIRLESS COMPANIES are implicitly agreeing to. They do not send any sort of confirmation or validation that the number entered actually agrees to pay for such “premium content’. As well, you cannot easily get a refund.

    Who is guilty? In the end, the carriers are guilty because they are not stopping such companies from unethical processes.

    By the way, cheers to ShoeMoney for exposing/writing about this.

  36. We at Mobile Messenger would like to assist you with your concern or complaint. If you need assistance in regards to being unsubscribed or other related issues, please do not hesitate to contact us. Please call 1-800-416-6129 Monday to Friday 0600 – 1800 US Pacific Time or email


    1. Well, Sandra: I’d sure call you and give you a liece of my mind about the unauthorized charge on my son’s cellphone number (which my carrier just agreed to remove) except I wonder if I wouldn’t get scammed again once I gave you his cell number!

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