Archive for the ‘Personal Data’ Category

FTC Reaches Settlement With Investigators Involved In The HP Spy Scheme

The FTC reached an agreement on Wednesday for $600,000 in settlements and judgments against several private investigators others involved in the Hewlett-Packard Co. boardroom scandal.

The FTC settlement imposed a $67,000 penalty against Matthew DePante, his father, Joseph DePante, and their now-defunct company, Action Research Group Inc., which was based in Clearwater, Fla. All but $3,000 was suspended due to their inability to pay.

The U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Florida, Orlando division, also entered default judgments against DePante’s subcontractors, Bryan Wagner, who must pay $428,085, and Cassandra Selvage and her company, Eye in the Sky Investigations Inc., who must pay $110,762.

More details on this topic can be found at the FTC website as well as other published articles. You can read the actual FTC complaints here.

What are your comments on this topic?

Jimmie Mesis, Editor-in-Chief
PI Magazine

Impersonation to obtain personal information snares researchers and private investigators

Impersonating someone to a government agency or hiring another to carry out this ruse could result in a criminal prosecution.

The operators of BNT Investigations, which was not licensed in Washington state, where they were based, plead guilty to crimes that carry a minimum 2-year sentence. They “assumed the individuals’ identities and persuaded government agencies such as the Internal Revenue Service, the Social Security Administration and state labor departments to hand over tax, wage and other confidential records.” Private investigators from various states who submitted personally identifying information to the firm were also indicted and are still awaiting trial.

Private investigators, insurance companies and attorneys who hire others obtain personal information should confirm that they do not get unauthorized personal information from a government agency. Other laws invoke penalties for using subterfuge (not necessarily impersonating the subject) to secure telephone records from the provider or financial information from banks and account holders. Our clients don’t necessarily know this. It’s our job to educate them.

New York AG Exacts Fine from US Search

Data reseller will pay $250,000 for accessing and selling non-public personally identifiable information obtained from credit bureaus. The New York Attorney General determined that US Search illegally accessed the consumer information more than 2,385 times. If they sold each report for 100 bucks that would just cover the fine and penalties. Then there’s the litigation costs…

Guide to phone records privacy

Selected Laws Governing the Disclosure of
Customer Phone Records by Telecommunications
, a recently released Congressional Research Service report, summarizes the laws, legislation and congressional actions related to telephone call log records. The Federation of American Scientists has a database of some of these CRS reports, which are selectively released by members of Congress.

The armchair investigator: Employment background on the Internet

The online telephone directory, isn’t just for finding listed telephone numbers. Use it to identify current employment or to expand the employment history profile of your subject. A search on my name in California returned 40 results. Some are home listings, but other records are work contacts. These are extracted from the Internet – Web pages and Zoominfo – and may supplement the business associations found at various other people finder sites.


Google the work designation “Mt Diablo Soccer League” to find a photo, phone number and email for this Tamara Thompson.

Most of the free lookup, fee-based people finder sites – PeopleFinders, Voompeople, Privateeye, to name a few, – contain the same data, although those may list corporation and DBA records not found at

The recent proposal by the governor of Connecticut requiring that these sites offer a blanket opt-out to residents likely won’t get legal traction. The Internet people finder databases and telephone directories already have opt-out procedures, and their information is gathered from government public records and published directories. Governor Rell has stated that this measure would address safety concerns for the elderly, who are often targeted in financial scams.

Monday, December 10 FTC workshop on Social Security numbers

This 1 1/2 day workshop starts at 8:30am and will be Webcast. The agenda of topics and speakers from government and commerce, and professional and advocacy groups, is prominently sprinkled with privacy activists who take absolutist positions against access by private investigators to credit bureau and government records that contain Social Security numbers. However, there are 338 comments submitted by the public, many of them are accounts by private investigators of the critical use of Social Security numbers to solve crimes, find people, break fraud rings and verify employment backgrounds.

Robert Townsend of the National Association of Legal Investigators is on the 1:45pm panel on Monday.

On December 10 and 11, 2007, the Federal Trade Commission will host a public workshop, “Security in Numbers: SSNs and ID Theft,” to explore the uses of Social Security numbers in the private sector and the role of SSNs in identity theft. This workshop continues the work of the President’s Identity Theft Task Force, and, in particular, its recommendation to explore ways to reduce unnecessary uses of the SSN. The workshop will provide a forum for public-sector, private-sector, and consumer representatives to discuss the various uses of SSNs by the private sector, the necessity of those uses, alternatives available, the challenges faced by the private sector in moving away from using SSNs, and how SSNs are obtained and used by identity thieves. The workshop will be free and open to the public.

While you’re viewing the video, read through the November 2007 Federal Trade Commission document, Staff Summary of Comments and Information Received Regarding the Private Sector’s Use of Social Security Numbers.

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