Two data brokers on Wednesday settled charges in separate cases that they violated the Fair Credit Reporting Act by providing reports about consumers to prospective employers and landlords without making sure they were accurate.
Both InfoTrack Information Services and Instant Checkmate Inc. sell public record information about consumers and thus operated as consumer-reporting agencies subject to the FCRA, according to the Federal Trade Commission.
The FTC charged, among other things, that in many cases InfoTrack provided inaccurate information suggesting that job applicants potentially were registered sex offenders, possibly causing employers to reject their job application. The court orders imposed a fine of $1 million against InfoTrack and its owner. All but $60,000 of the penalty imposed on InfoTrack and its owner are suspended, based on their inability to pay. The court fined Instant Checkmate a total of $525,000.
According to the complaint against Instant Checkmate, the company failed to require that users of its reports identify themselves or certify the purpose for which they were seeking consumers information. Instant Checkmate Inc., based in San Diego, runs InstantCheckmate.com,, where users can search public records for information about anyone, including a persons current and previous address, arrest and conviction records, and birth, marriage and divorce records. Instant Checkmate marketed its service to landlords and employers.
Consumers shouldnt have to worry that theyll be turned down for a job or an apartment because of false information in a consumer report, said Jessica Rich, director of the FTCs Bureau of Consumer Protection. Data brokers that operate as consumer reporting agencies have a responsibility to ensure the accuracy of the information they sell for decisions about whether to hire someone, extend them credit, rent them an apartment, or insure them.
InfoTrack, based in Deerfield, Ill., provides background screening reports to hundreds of employers nationwide about prospective and current employees. The reports include driving records, employment and education history and criminal records - including sex offender records.
InfoTrack and its owner, Steve Kaplan, violated the FCRA by failing to use reasonable procedures to assure maximum possible accuracy of consumer report information obtained from sex offender registry records; failing to provide FCRA-required notices; and failing to provide written notices to consumers of the fact that InfoTrack reported public record information to prospective employers, when that information was likely to adversely affect consumers ability to obtain employment, according to the FTC.
InfoTrack and Kaplan agreed to maintain reasonable procedures to assure the maximum possible accuracy of consumer report information; provide required FCRA notices; and notify consumers when InfoTrack has provided public record information that is likely to have an adverse effect upon their ability to obtain employment.
The FTC complaint alleges that the company violated the FCRA by failing to maintain reasonable procedures to ensure that those using its reports had permissible purposes for accessing them; furnishing reports to users that it did not have reason to believe had permissible purposes to access them; failing to follow reasonable procedures to assure that its reports were as accurate as possible; and failing to provide FCRA-mandated User Notices outlining several important consumer protections.