The Federal Trade Commission wants two online background check services to pay a combined $5.8 million for allegedly deceiving customers about whether they had criminal records.
The FTC filed the charges against Instant Checkmate and TruthFinder, which are companies that allow users to conduct background reports. These services allow people to quickly conduct unlimited background reports for those who pay a monthly fee.
But the FTC said these two companies made millions from their subscriptions by claiming that the subject of a background report has a criminal or arrest record when the record was merely a traffic ticket. The FTC also said their data was described as the “most accurate Information,” but officials say the companies take no steps to verify the accuracy of the information.
The FTC also alleged that the companies are subject to the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) by operating as consumer reporting agencies by claiming to use advertising keywords such as “best background check for landlords” and “pre-employment screening.” Officials said the companies violated the FCRA by failing to ensure the accuracy of their reports and providing background reports to those who did not have a permissible purpose to obtain them.
“Companies that compile personal information and sell background reports are on notice: Don’t make false claims about the contents of your reports,” said Samuel Levine, Director of the Bureau of Consumer Protection. “And, if you market your reports to be used to screen tenants or employees, you are a consumer reporting agency and you must follow the requirements of the FCRA.”
Despite these allegations, Instant Checkmate and TruthFinder both have A+ ratings with the Better Business Bureau.
PeopleConnect, the parent company of Instant Checkmate, said its service is also often used by online daters.
“Instant Checkmate has positioned itself as a leader in the online dating market by offering a unique and essential service: background checks. In an era where safety and security are paramount concerns for online daters, Instant Checkmate provides a comprehensive background screening service that helps users make more informed decisions about potential matches,” the company said.