If you’re looking for a job, an apartment, or a loan, there’s a good chance that someone will be looking at you — closely. They may search for your name online or order a background report. They’re looking for red-flag warnings that another candidate may be a safer bet.
According to a lawsuit announced today, MyLife.com, which sells background reports, raised red flags by posting deceptive “teaser” reports online. The lawsuit says MyLife promoted these reports to employers, landlords, and others to convince them to subscribe to its services. The Department of Justice filed the lawsuit on behalf of the FTC.
Here’s how it worked: MyLife displayed the teaser reports when someone typed a person’s name into a search bar at MyLife.com. If the person had no criminal, traffic, or sex offender records, the report typically suggested the person had such records. It also prominently displayed large, clickable buttons, one inviting the user to “View [searched-for person’s] Court, Arrest, or Criminal Records,” and another inviting the user to “View [searched-for person’s] Sex Offender Records.” Mylife.com users could view the full records only after paying for a subscription.
In many instances the searched-for people did not have criminal or sexual offender records, or they had minor traffic citations only. As a result, the lawsuit says, the reports were deceptive, violating the FTC Act.
The lawsuit also charges that MyLife didn’t take reasonable steps to make sure its background reports were accurate, violating the Fair Credit Reporting Act, used misleading billing practices, violating the Restore Online Shoppers’ Confidence Act, and didn’t clearly and truthfully disclose that MyLife “had a policy of not making refunds and of discouraging cancellations,” violating the Telemarketing Sales Rule.