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FTC moves to shut down cell phone 'cramming'

WASHINGTON (AP) -- The Federal Trade Commission is trying to shut down operations of a company called Wise Media LLC, which it says "crammed" cell phone users.

Cramming refers to charging consumers for services they didn't approve. The FTC said Wednesday that the complaint is its first-ever mobile cramming case. The agency is trying to increase its consumer protection efforts in this field as more consumers use cell phones and tablets.

The complaint was filed against Georgia-based Wise Media along with its owners, Brian M. Buckley and William J. Deloney.

Consumers were signed up to receive services, such as text messages with horoscopes, flirting and love tips, and then billed $9.99 per month by Wise Media without their knowledge or permission, the FTC said.

The agency said Wise Media received millions of dollars from putting charges on consumers' cell phone bills.

The FTC's complaint asks the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Georgia to immediately freeze the defendants' assets and order them to stop cramming consumers. The agency is also seeking an injunction that would force the defendants to give up the money they made from the operation so they can be used to provide refunds to victims.

"The concept of 'cramming' charges on to phone bills is a not a new one," FTC Chairwoman Edith Ramirez said in a statement. "As more and more consumers move to mobile phones, scammers have adapted to this new technology, and the commission will continue its efforts to protect consumers from their unlawful practices."

A representative for Wise Media could not be reached for comment.

The complaint also names Concrete Marketing Research LLC, another Georgia firm, as a defendant. Deloney owns Concrete Marketing.