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FTC seizes fake military recruitment websites

The fake websites sell applicants' personal information to post-secondary schools.
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Shutterstock / StockPhotosLV

FTC has successfully seized and shut down a number of fake military recruitment websites that trick people into giving them their personal information. The websites' operators, Alabama-based companies Sunkey Publishing Inc. and Fanmail.com LLC, have agreed to hand over their domains as part of their settlement with the agency. According to the FTC, the websites -- army.com, navyenlist.com and armyenlist.com, among others -- pose as legit military recruitment portals, when in fact they sell the details applicants send in as marketing leads to post-secondary schools for $15 to $40 per. They lure people to their domains by using search ads that include phrases such as "The Army Wants You! " and "Coast Guard Wants You!"

The FTC pointed out that the websites promised to use the information people submit for military recruitment purposes only, but that's clearly not the case. In addition, applicants who send their personal details through the fake portals receive phone calls from telemarketers pretending to be affiliated with the military. Based on the commission's investigations, the defendants have been running this scheme since 2010.

After charging them with violating the FTC Act and the FTC's Telemarketing Sales Rule, the FTC has slapped Sunkey with a fine of $11.1 million and Fanmail with $1 million. Duping military-hopefuls might not be that lucrative, though, since the penalties were suspended due to the companies' inability to pay.

FTC Chairman Joe Simons warns other companies with the same MO:

"Those who are considering a military career deserve to have confidence that the recruitment site is legitimate and their personal information will not be misused. The FTC will take action against any party in the lead generation ecosystem -- from sellers to purchasers -- that fails to comply with the law."

The agency is now encouraging people who think they talked to a government imposter to report the incident through their Complaint Assistant portal.

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