Lead generator ITMedia will pay $1.5 million to settle allegations that it duped consumers into providing sensitive financial data, which the company subsequently sold to aggregators and marketers, the Federal Trade Commission said this week.
ITMedia operated at least 200 websites that advertised online loans, and asked consumers to submit their personal information in order to apply, the FTC alleged in a complaint filed Wednesday in U.S. District Court for the Central District of California. Among other information, the websites sought Social Security numbers, bank account numbers, birthdates and other data that can be used for identity theft.
Instead of passing along the applications only to lenders, ITMedia “distributes and sells information from these loan applications as 'leads' to a variety of entities without regard to whether these entities are lenders or use the consumers’ data to make loans,” the complaint alleged.
The FTC specifically said that since January 2016, more than 84% of the loan applications were not sent to lenders. Instead, the applications went to an array of companies including marketers, credit repair sellers and other companies that resold data.
In some cases, ITMedia used the applications “to create targeted marketing data for telemarketers, email advertisers, and other entities,”or to direct consumers to online ads, according to the complaint.
In addition to the $1.5 million fine, the proposed settlement agreement, unveiled Thursday, prohibits ITMedia and its owners from misleading consumers about how their data will be used. The order also restricts the ability of ITMedia and its owners to sell consumers' personal information in the future.