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Originally published Tuesday, November 18, 2008 at 12:00 AM

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"MyLuvCrush" Internet sham crushed by state

A Seattle advertising company that used "LuvCrush" scam to lure curious consumers to a paid horoscope subscription service agreed to stop using the ploy under an agreement with the Washington state Attorney General's office.

Seattle Times consumer affairs reporter

A Seattle advertising company that lured people to a Web site on the pretense that someone with a secret "crush" had sent them a message agreed Monday to stop the ruse and clean up its act under an agreement with the state Attorney General's Office.

Tatto Media was called out by the Attorney General's Office shortly after it began luring Internet users with a false promise to reveal the identity of a secret admirer if the users clicked on a link and entered a cellphone number. People who clicked on the link, hoping to learn the identity of a "LuvCrush," were instead directed to another page that contained an agreement for a paid horoscope subscription service.

Those who purchased the $9.99 monthly service were then sent a text message containing the name of a fictitious person. The ads appeared frequently over the past month or so on social-networking sites such as Facebook, MySpace and Reunion.

"People were suckered into it," said Paula Selis, senior counsel with the Attorney General's Office and the lead attorney in a negotiated settlement that restricts the company's future ad schemes. Selis said the office pursued the action after receiving a consumer complaint and noticing a large number of complaints on consumer bulletin boards monitored by the Attorney General's Office.

Neither the company nor its attorney responded to requests for comment.

The agreement, filed Monday in King County Superior Court, states that Tatto Media violated the state's Consumer Protection Act by misrepresenting the existence or identity of a person who had a romantic interest in the user, misrepresenting that a message from that person was waiting in a personal e-mail account, and by making it difficult to navigate away from the company's promotional Web sites.

The agreement restricts the company's ability to use similar ploys in the future, and requires it to pay $20,262 for investigative costs to the state.

Selis encouraged consumers to notify the Attorney General's Office if they encounter Internet scams, even if they don't fall for them. For information on how to file a complaint, go to www.atg.wa.gov/FileAComplaint.aspx or call 1-800-551-4636.

Susan Kelleher: 206-464-2508 or skelleher@seattletimes.com

Copyright © 2008 The Seattle Times Company

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