Class Takes on Experian’s Info ‘Bounty Hunter’

     LOS ANGELES (CN) – Experian schemed with a “consumer bounty hunter” to sell financial records to a banned debt relief servicer, devastating people’s credit scores, a class claims in Federal Court.
     Sue Rodriguez and 12 other named plaintiffs sued Experian Services Corp. and two affiliates, CPL Holdings dba Core Digital Media, and three people, including a former Experian attorney, on Wednesday., a marketing lead generator, “lured, wrangled and captured” consumers’ personal and financial information and sold and traded it to third parties, Rodriguez claims.
     In exchange for “bounty” payments, the parties agreed to share additional customer information with LowerMyBills, according to the 41-page lawsuit.
     From 2007 to 2012, LowerMyBills and the defendants used Experian’s position in the consumer credit industry, coupled with promises to help consumers erase their debts, to induce consumers to provide Experian with their personal financial information and to trust the companies to unite them with an “approved debt relief partner,” the class claims.
     Credit Alliance Group, of Dallas, acted as a partner from 2007 to 2013 though the company was legally prohibited from engaging in debt relief services, the class claims.
     The class claims the defendants sold thousands of consumers’ personal and financial information to Credit Alliance Group (CAG) in exchange for information about CAG’s customers.
     CAG promised to hold customers’ funds in trust and use it to negotiate debt settlements, the class claims, “at pennies on the dollar.”
     Thousands of consumers allegedly drew money from their retirement accounts despite early withdrawal penalties to resolve their debts and improve credit scores with Experian.
     But CAG’s president and CEO failed to place the money in trust accounts and commingled and used the money for personal expenses, the class claims.
     After CAG filed for bankruptcy in 2013, it was revealed that the entire business and partnership was a “sham” and that thousands of consumers lost millions of dollars of personal savings and retirement funds, the lawsuit states.
     “At present, the Experian defendants continued to fail to disclose to CAG’s customer victims the exact nature of the role Experian played in the CAG scheme and have made no effort to disclose or repair the harms to hundreds and thousands of honest, hard-working Americans whose life savings and credit scores (‘with Experian’) have been devastated as a result,” class claims.
     “In some circumstances these defendants appear to continue to attempt to shield and hide their deceptive trade practice schemes by spuriously claiming that such fraudulent acts are protected industry trade secrets.”
     In response to consumers’ complaints, the class claims, the defendants said they have “no control” over third-party partners’ use of the personal information.
     CAG is not listed as a party to the complaint.
     An Experian subsidiary in 2013 separately sold “hundreds of thousands” of consumers’ names, Social Security numbers and other “sensitive” personal information to third parties in Vietnam tied to identity theft, the class claims.
     The proposed class, estimated at more than 100 members, seeks punitive damages and restitution for violation of the California Consumer Reporting Agencies Act, false advertising and intentional misrepresentation.
     They are represented by Andrew Schwaba and Edward Nicholas, of Charlotte, N.C., and R. Kevin Fisher, of Los Angeles.
     The attorneys did not respond immediately to requests for comment Wednesday.

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