A lead generation company that collected sensitive information from millions of consumers under the guise of connecting them to lenders will pay $1.5 million in civil penalties and face restrictions on its operations following a lawsuit from the Federal Trade Commission.
The FTC Complaint alleges that since at least 2012, ITMedia Solutions LLC, a number of affiliates, and their owners and officers have operated hundreds of websites designed to trick consumers into sharing their most sensitive financial information, including their phone numbers. social security and banking information. . The defendants sold this information to marketing companies and others without regard to how the information would be used, according to the complaint.
“ITMedia tricked millions of people into leaking sensitive financial information and then sold it to companies that didn’t provide loans,” said Samuel Levine, director of the FTC’s Consumer Protection Bureau. “The company’s mining and misuse of this data violated the law in several ways.”
The lawsuit alleges that the defendants – who used cashadvance.com, personalloans.com, badcreditloans.com and websites with similar names – promised consumers that their information would be shared with “…our network of trusted lenders …” or would be “…only shared with qualified lenders.” Some sites promised that loans were available for people with bad credit history without credit score requirements.
In its complaint, the FTC alleges that 84% of loan applications collected through these websites since January 2016 were not sold to lenders, but rather distributed to an array of marketers, debt relief sellers and credit repair, and businesses that would resell consumers. information regardless of how it would be used. According to the complaint, in many cases ITMedia was not even aware of why a company was buying consumer data, or sometimes even the physical location of the company.
ITMedia sold consumer information to a group of companies that were sued by the FTC last year for marketing payday loan products that overcharged consumers by tens of millions of dollars.
The complaint notes that the harm caused to consumers by ITMedia’s “blind” sale of consumer data was extensive, putting them at risk of identity theft and scams.
In addition to misleading consumers and selling their data without authorization, the complaint alleges that ITMedia violated the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) by illegally obtaining and reselling the credit scores of consumers who submitted information. . The FCRA limits the purposes for which businesses can obtain credit scores and using the scores to market leads is not a permitted purpose.
The defendants have agreed to settle the charges brought against them by the FTC and, in addition to the civil penalty, the proposed settlement order will prohibit the defendants from making misleading statements to consumers, including how their personal information will be used. The order will also prohibit defendants from selling consumers’ personal information outside of a limited set of circumstances, and the order requires them to screen recipients of that information.
The complaint alleges that ITMedia Solutions LLC and a number of related companies, as well as Michael Ambrose, Daniel Negari, Jason Ramin, Grant Carpenter, Anisha Hancock and Sione Kaufusi violated FTC and FCRA law.
The Commission’s vote allowing the staff to file the complaint and stipulating the final order was 4-0. Commissioner Christine S. Wilson released a concurring statement. FTC Files Complaint and Final Order/Injunction in the United States District Court for the Central District of California.
REMARK: The Commission files a complaint when it has “reason to believe” that the named defendants are violating or are about to violate the law and it appears to the Commission that a proceeding is in the public interest. The stipulated final orders have the force of law when approved and signed by the judge of the district court.