FTC files to stop sales of pretexted phone records

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The Federal Trade Commission has asked a U.S. district court to order a permanent halt to operations that it said deceptively obtained and sold consumers' confidential phone records without their knowledge or consent.

The complaint, filed in the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Florida, Orlando Division, names Action Research Group Inc., based in Melbourne, FL; 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.

According to the FTC's complaint, 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.

The Telecommunications Act of 1996 provides that customers' phone records may only be disclosed "upon affirmative written request by the customer."

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 FTC said.

The agency also alleged that the defendants have offered to sell the confidential phone records to third parties, and selling the records constitutes an invasion of privacy that could endanger the health and safety of consumers.

The complaint alleged that 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.

Also charged in the complaint is that selling the records to third parties without consumer consent is unfair and violates federal law.

The FTC has asked the court to order a permanent halt to the unlawful practices and order the defendants to give up their ill-gotten gains.

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