A Santa Monica company that allegedly lured millions of consumers into providing confidential information under the pretense of linking them to creditors will pay $1.5 million in civil penalties imposed by the Federal Trade Commission.
ITMedia Solutions LLC, which specializes in lead generation, will also face restrictions on the sale and use of consumer data as a result of the FTC lawsuit filed last week.
ITMedia officials and Nevada and Utah affiliates listed as defendants in the lawsuit include Michael Ambrose, Daniel Negari, Jason Ramin, Grant Carpenter, Anisha Hancock and Sion Kaufusi.
Representatives of ITMedia did not return phone calls and emails asking for comment.
According to the lawsuit, since December 2012, ITMedia has operated at least 200 internet sites that host ads targeting consumers seeking online payday loans, consumers with bad credit, and consumers seeking personal and installment loans worth up to up to 35,000 USD.
Websites used by ITMedia and its affiliates to target consumers include cashadvance.com, personalloans.com, badcreditloans.com, and others with similar names. The websites say they find loans for consumers who fill out an online form, providing social security numbers and bank accounts that the company described as a loan application or request.
To encourage consumers to fill out applications, ITMedia websites promise to only share sensitive information with their network of trusted loan partners and financial providers for loan purposes.
However, in reality, according to the lawsuit, ITMedia and other defendants were selling consumer information to marketing companies and others without caring how the information would be used.
“ITMedia tricked millions of people into giving away sensitive financial information and then sold it to companies that weren’t making loans,” Samuel Levin, director of the Federal Trade Commission’s Bureau of Consumer Protection, said in a statement. “The company’s extraction and misuse of this data violated the law in several ways.”
The lawsuit alleges that since January 2016, about 84% of loan applications collected through ITMedia websites were not sold to lenders, but instead distributed to marketing, debt relief and credit recovery companies that resold consumer information.
“In many cases, ITMedia was not even aware of the purpose for which the company was buying consumer data, and sometimes even the physical location of the company,” the FTC said.
ITMedia sold consumer information to a group of companies that were sued by the FTC last year for marketing payday loan products that inflated consumers by tens of millions of dollars.
The complaint also alleges that ITMedia violated the Trustworthy Credit Reporting Act by illegally obtaining and reselling consumer credit scores, exposing them to the risk of identity theft and other fraudulent activities.
The defendants agreed to pay a $1.5 million civil penalty to settle the FTC charges against them.
The proposed settlement prohibits defendants from making misleading consumer statements about how personal information will be used.
They are also prohibited from selling consumers’ personal information outside of a limited set of circumstances, and are required to verify the recipients of that information.