Phone Records Obtained by Deception Were Unlawfully Sold to Third Parties
The Federal Trade Commission has asked a U.S. district court to order a permanent halt to operations that deceptively obtained and sold consumers’ confidential phone records without their knowledge or consent. The agency alleges the practice is not only unfair and deceptive in violation of federal law, but could endanger consumers’ safety. The agency also will ask the court to order the defendants to give up their ill-gotten gains.
According to the FTC complaint, the Telecommunications Act of 1996 provides that customers’ phone records may only be disclosed “upon affirmative written request by the customer.” But since at least 2005, the defendants have obtained confidential customer phone records, including lists of calls made and the dates, times, and duration of the calls, and sold them to third parties, without the knowledge or consent of the customers. In order to get the records, the defendants used and caused others to use “false pretenses, fraudulent statements, fraudulent or stolen documents or other misrepresentations, including posing as an account holder or as an employee,” of the phone company. The agency alleges the defendants have offered to sell the confidential phone records to third parties. Selling the records constitutes an invasion of privacy that could endanger the health and safety of consumers, the FTC charges.
The complaint alleges the defendants' claim that they are account holders, that they are employees of the phone company, or that they are authorized to obtain the confidential customer phone records are false, and violate federal law. The complaint also charges that selling the records to third parties without consumer consent is unfair, and also violates federal law.
The agency has asked the court to order a permanent halt to the unlawful practices and order the defendants to give up their ill-gotten gains.
The FTC complaint names Action Research Group, Inc., based in Melbourne, Florida; its principals, Joseph DePante and Matthew DePante; and Bryan Wagner, Cassandra Selvage, and Eye in the Sky Investigations, Inc. as participants in the unlawful pretexting.
The Commission vote to authorize staff to file the complaint was 5-0. The complaint was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Florida, Orlando Division.
NOTE: The Commission files a complaint when it has “reason to believe” that the law has been or is being violated, and it appears to the Commission that a proceeding is in the public interest. The complaint is not a finding or ruling that the defendant has actually violated the law. The case will be decided by the court.
Copies of the complaint are available from the FTC’s Web site at http://www.ftc.gov and also from the FTC’s Consumer Response Center, Room 130, 600 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W., Washington, D.C. 20580. The FTC works for the consumer to prevent fraudulent, deceptive, and unfair business practices in the marketplace and to provide information to help consumers spot, stop, and avoid them. To file a complaint in English or Spanish or to get free information on any of 150 consumer topics, call toll-free, 1-877-FTC-HELP (1-877-382-4357), or use the complaint form at http://www.ftc.gov/ftc/complaint.htm. The FTC enters Internet, telemarketing, identity theft, and other fraud-related complaints into Consumer Sentinel, a secure, online database available to more than 1,600 civil and criminal law enforcement agencies in the U.S. and abroad.
Claudia Bourne Farrell,
Office of Public Affairs
Bureau of Consumer Protection
(FTC File No. 072 3021)
(Civil Action No. 6:07-cv-0227-ORL-22JGG)