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Equifax settles U.S. charges of improperly selling consumer data

By Diane Bartz

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Consumer credit rating company Equifax Inc has agreed to pay $393,000 to settle allegations that it improperly sold information on consumers who had fallen behind on their mortgages, the Federal Trade Commission said on Wednesday.

Equifax Information Services LLC improperly sold 17,000 such lists of consumer information to Direct Lending Source, which turned around and sold them to companies under investigation for allegedly duping consumers with mortgage rescue scams, the FTC said.

Direct Lending Source agreed to pay a $1.2 million civil penalty.

Equifax ended its business relationship with Direct Lending Source and its affiliates in the summer of 2011, said Equifax spokesman Tim Klein.

"We reached an agreement with the FTC regarding issues they brought to our attention regarding Direct Lending, which was a former customer of Equifax," Klein said. "As part of this settlement we did not and do not admit to any wrongdoing."

Direct Lending Source could not be located for a comment. It does not appear to have a website and a telephone number listed as belonging to the company has been disconnected.

In the past several years, the FTC has filed more than 40 cases against companies that promise mortgage relief services but fail to deliver, the agency said.

(Reporting By Diane Bartz; Editing by Tim Dobbyn)

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