WASHINGTON — The Federal Trade Commission has gone after three information brokers who allegedly violated the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act’s prohibitions on “pretext calling.”

Information brokers, who collect everything from unlisted telephone numbers to bank account balances, are prevented from collecting financial information under false pretenses. To catch violators of the 1999 law, the FTC teamed up with banking companies, including Citigroup Inc., to create “Operation Detect Pretext.” In one instance, the FTC alleges a representative of one of firms pretended to be the individual that an FTC agent, posing as the customer, was seeking information on.

The FTC filed suit in U.S. District Court to halt the operations of: Information Search Inc., Baltimore; Smart Data Systems, Staten Island, N.Y.; and Discreet Data Systems, Humble, Texas.

The agency charges that the defendants claimed they could obtain public and non-public information and confidential financial data for fees ranging from $100 to $600.

Under Gramm-Leach-Bliley, the brokers could be fined up to $11,000 but the FTC is asking the courts to halt the illegal practices permanently, freeze the defendants’ assets pending trial, and order them to surrender the money they earned by using deceptive techniques.

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