Company fined $1.2 million for fake 'Angry Birds' alerts

Company fined $1.2 million for fake 'Angry Birds' alerts »Play Video

Some people who played Angry Birds on their smart phones in the last few years may have some money coming to them.

The refunds are the result of a federal lawsuit about "cramming" - putting unwanted charges onto people's cell phone bills.

The Federal Trade Commission says a mobile marketing company in California -- Jesta Digital, which also did business as Jamster, sent "misleading and deceptive" pop-up ads to people who played the Angry Birds game via the free app on their android devices.

Those ads featured a little green robot similar to the Droid character and were made to look like a legitimate warning that a virus or viruses had been detected.
     
The federal investigation found that Jesta did not actually scan any devices and did not detect any viruses.
     
Prosecutors say people who clicked on the "remove" button landed on a series of screens that talked about virus protection.

If they tapped anywhere on their smartphone screen, they would unknowingly authorize a $9.99 monthly charge for ring tones or other mobile content.

How could they do this?

According to the FTC complaint, Jesta "misused" a novel and little-used billing method known as wireless access protocol (WAP). WAP captures the phone number of a mobile device for billing purposes even though the customer has not manually entered that information. Just tap the screen and you approve the charge.

This is believed to be the first case ever brought by the federal government involving WAP billing.

Jesta told NBC News that "its advertising campaigns are all compliant with or exceed the standards set by the Mobile Marketing Association."

The company has agreed to pay the FTC a $1.2 million dollar fine, make refunds to customer who may have been misled and change the way it does business.  

So how do you protect yourself from cramming?  You need to check your phone bill each month and look for unauthorized charges.

Note: Rovio Entertainment, the company that created angry birds was not named in the federal complaint.

More Info: Company to pay refunds over fake alerts in 'Angry Birds'
 

Herb Weisbaum is The ConsumerMan. Follow him on Facebook and Twitter or visit The ConsumerMan website.