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FTC Fines Data Broker for Suggesting Potential Hires Were Sex Offenders

Most people applying for work are worried about checking their resumes for typos. But maybe they should be checking to see whether they have the same name as someone who's committed a sex crime.

The Federal Trade Commission has settled a case with InfoTrack Information Services over charges that the company sold faulty background check reports that suggested prospective hires were registered sex offenders.

The commission said that as part of its services it would search the National Sex Offender Registry by first and last name and return all with that name, regardless of birth date, as "possible matches." If "Steve Brown" was a sex offender then anyone with the same name registered as a potential hit.

The company and its owner, Steve Kaplan, were charged a $1 million civil penalty, suspended to $60,000 for inability to pay. The company didn't return calls or emails seeking comment.

"Consumers shouldn’t have to worry that they’ll be turned down for a job or an apartment because of false information in a consumer report," said Jessica Rich, Director of the FTC’s 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."