The FTC has ordered two debt sellers who posted the personal information of more than 70,000 consumers on a public website, to notify the consumers that their personal information has been compromised. In addition, the debt sellers must also tell consumers how they can protect their identities against fraud and theft for the future. Debt sellers, Brandon Lambert of Cornerstone and Company LLC in Riverside, California and Aron Tomko of Bayview Soluitons LLC in St. Petersburg, Florida are named as the defendants in the case.
The FTC alleges that the companies on two different occasions, posted the personal information of consumers on a public website. Information included consumer birthdates, contact information, employers’ names bank account and credit card numbers, birth dates, and specifics about consumer debts. The defendants allegedly placed consumer personal information in a debt collection portfolio for past-due credit cards, payday loans, and other debts. The portfolio was then posted on a publically viewable website in the form of an excel file. Even though the portfolio was posted on a website dedicated to other debt collection professionals, the files were not encrypted or protected in any way. As a result, anyone had access to the personal data, which was accessed over 500 times.
The FTC states that this lack of privacy is a violation of the FTC Act, which states that consumers have a right to privacy. Exposed consumers in the portfolio are now vulnerable to identity theft, and have also been branded as debtors to the public at large which could jeopardize their current employment or future employment opportunities. The FTC is requesting that the court make defendants halt the execution of this dangerous practice, and provide redress to consumers already affected. According to the FTC sellers are allowed to post portfolios but should hide personal identifiers that could expose consumer personal information. Debt collection schemes and mishaps happen every day that put consumers at risk. Legitimate debt collection agencies are often punished for the mistakes of others and are labelled “high risk.”