WASHINGTON (Reuters)—U.S. authorities said on Wednesday they had filed suit against five online companies, charging they had illegally sold confidential phone records. |
The Federal Trade Commission said it is asking a court to bar the sale of the phone records and force the companies to give up the money they made with their operations.
"Trafficking in consumers' confidential telephone records is outrageous," FTC consumer protection chief Lydia Parnes said in a statement. "It robs consumers of their privacy and exposes them to everything from snoops to stalkers."
The FTC lawsuits come amid a wave of concerns about Web sites that offer to get consumers' phone records. Investigations are also under way by the Federal Communications Commission and states' attorneys general.
In addition, lawmakers in Congress are considering measures to impose tougher penalties on the practice.
In the lawsuits announced on Wednesday, the FTC charged the companies used "false pretenses, fraudulent statements, fraudulent or stolen documents or other misrepresentations, including posing as a customer of a telecommunications carrier" to get the phone records.
The companies advertised on their Web sites that they could get the confidential phone records of any individual and make them available for a fee, the agency said.
One of the companies, Integrity Security & Investigations Services Inc., based in Yorktown, Virginia, also sold consumers' financial records, including credit-card information, the FTC said.
Other companies and their principals named in the FTC suits were: 77 Investigations Inc., and Reginald Kimbro, based in Upland, California; AccuSearch Inc., doing business as Abika.com, and Jay Patel, based in Cheyenne, Wyoming; CEO Group Inc., doing business as Check Em Out, and Scott Joseph, based in Fort Lauderdale, Florida; and Information Search Inc., and David Kacala, based in Baltimore, Maryland.
CEO Group President Scott Joseph told Reuters he had not yet had time to review the suit and could not comment.
Information Search's David Kacala disputed that he had illegally sold such records, saying the dispute was over information on his company's Web site. "Basically it's charging me with advertising," he told Reuters.
Attempts to contact Integrity Security, 77 Investigations, AccuSearch, Kimbro and Patel were not immediately successful.