SiteSearch, John Ayers, LeapLab and Leads Company (the defendants) settled with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) for “knowingly provid[ing] scammers with hundreds of thousands of consumers’ sensitive personal information.”

SiteSearch will pay $4.1 million default judgment, while the other defendants’ monetary obligations are suspended based on inability to pay. Those defendants are prohibited from selling or transferring any personal information to third parties, misleading consumers about the terms of payday loans, and they must destroy all consumer data in their possession within 30 days of entry of the final order.

The defendants collected consumers’ name, address, phone number, employer, Social Security number, and bank account number, including their bank routing number through online payday loan applications. After collecting this data, the defendants sold almost 95% of these applications for $0.50 each to third parties (non-lenders) who did not need the information for any legitimate purpose, but instead, in some instances, used the information to withdraw thousands (even millions) of dollars from consumers’ accounts. The lesson here is not only for businesses collecting consumer data, but for consumers; be careful who you give your personal information to and always monitor your bank accounts.