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 http://www.wishforsanta.com. 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 www.whohasacrushonyou.com. Another example of the same company. Whohasacrushonyou.com 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 myspace.com 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.