Seller of phone records to settle charges

An Internet business that sold people’s telephone and credit-card records has agreed to settle charges that it violated U.S. law, the U.S. Federal Trade Commission (FTC) said Thursday.

Integrity Security & Investigation Services and its owner, Edmund Edmister, will give up US$2,700, the entire amount the company earned from selling phone records and credit card transaction reports, the FTC said. The settlement also bars the company from obtaining and selling confidential phone and credit account records unless authorized by law or court order.

The FTC in May filed federal court complaints against five Web-based operations allegedly engaged in pretexting, attempting to obtain phone or other personal records from companies by pretending to be the targeted customer. Integrity Security & Investigation Services is the first firm to settle with the FTC; charges are still pending against the four remaining companies.

The U.S. Congress has been investigating pretexting since early this year, but the practice gained national attention last month when Hewlett-Packard Co. (HP) officials revealed pretexting had been used to gain access to the phone records of employees, board members and journalists. Private investigators employed by HP allegedly used pretexting in an investigation of board leaks in 2005 and 2006.

The agency dismissed charges against F. Lynne Moseley and Tracey Edmister, Integrity Security & Investigation Services corporate officers. The FTC determined they played no role in operating the business.

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