The U.S. Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has reported a California-based mortgage broker will pay $120,000 to settle alleged Fair Credit Reporting Act violations
after responding to negative online reviews published on Yelp by revealing personal information about consumers who wrote the poor feedback.
The FTC charged Mortgage Solutions FCS Inc.–doing business as Mount Diablo Lending–and its owner, Ramon Walker, with following up on negative Yelp reviews by publishing the credit histories, debt-to-income ratios, taxes, health, sources of income, family relationships and other personal information of the authors of the negative reviews, and several of the complainants were identified by first and last names. As a result of the settlement, Mount Diablo and Walker will pay a $120,000 penalty, and the company must set-up a data security program designed to protect the personal information it collects and obtain third-party assessments of its information security program every two years.
“Companies that use credit reports and scores have a legal obligation to keep that information confidential,” said Andrew Smith, Director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection. “They should not disclose that information to third parties without a legitimate reason to do so, and they certainly should not post that information on the Internet to embarrass or punish consumers, as happened here.”