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If the friend of a friend is my friend, and the enemy of a friend is my enemy, then is the seller of data to a scammer also a scammer? In a case announced today, the FTC said it might well be.

Here’s the backstory: In 2013, we told you about a case we brought against Ideal Financial Solutions, Inc., a Nevada corporation. That company, says the FTC, bought information that let it raid consumers’ bank and credit card accounts for millions — without the consumers’ OK or even knowledge. At the time, it was clear that many of these consumers had applied for online payday loans. But what wasn’t clear at the time was where Ideal Financial Solutions, Inc. had gotten those bank account and credit card numbers.

Until now. Today, the FTC said that a data broker operation — Sequoia One, LLC, Gen X Marketing Group, LLC, and four principals — collected sensitive information from online payday loan applications, including Social Security numbers, credit card and bank account numbers. Then, says the FTC, they turned around and sold it to companies that included non-lenders like Ideal Financial Solutions, Inc. which the defendants knew were taking money from peoples’ bank accounts and credit cards. And, says the FTC, the defendants actually helped hide Ideal Financial Solution scam.

Three of the defendants — Paul T. McDonnell, Theresa D. Bartholomew, and John E. Bartholomew, Jr. — agreed to settle the FTC charges. The proposed order imposes a monetary judgment, and says they can’t sell or benefit from selling consumer information from now on. The case against the rest of the defendants will be litigated.

So, what’s a person to do? Mainly this: think long and hard before you give out your Social Security number or bank or credit card information. Sometimes, you have to, if you want the service or offer. But stop and think: what do you know about the company, their website, or how they’ll protect your information? And if you think something has gone amiss with information you’ve already shared, tell the FTC.

[Note: Edited August 26, 2016, to specify that the Nevada-based company name is Ideal Financial Solutions, Inc.]

Blog Topics: 
Money & Credit


My question is: If these two takers get off with paying a fine of $15.000.00, and not go to jail, were is the $70,985,000.00 that was stolen from persons involved? The article did not explain.

Thanks for the work of the FTC. Reply would be appreciated.

The case discussed in this blog is against a data broker operation that the FTC charges illegally sold payday loan applicants' financial information. 

According to the FTC, the data brokers sold applicants' information to a scam operation. According to the FTC's press release, it was the scam operation that took $7.1 from consumers' accounts.

Three of the defendants in the data broker operation have agreed to settle FTC charges. Litigation continues against the other defendants.

You can read about the FTC case against the alleged scam operation that took money from consumers (Ideal Financial Solutions, Inc., et al.)

My sentiments exactly! These creeps should be made to pay back all their ill-gotten gains, then spend some prime time in jail - I'd say, a year for every million they stole.

If you or I did this we would do time in prison. Making these criminals pay a small fine does nothing to stop them from getting more creative in them hiding behind a front man and continuing their profitable crimes with innocent people’s bank and credit card accounts.
I have a real difficult case that I’m trying to get someone to help me with. I had two Home Depot accounts. I paid them each month by autopay which was my first mistake. My husband and I split up and once the accounts were paid off fraudulent purchases with no merchandise attached just money amounts were being deducted from that same bank account. My husband called me and asked me if I was using those cards. He explained what was going on and I called Home Depot immediately and told them that a lot of withdrawals were coming out of my bank account. It was later I went in my Home Depot account and saw that they showed I owed 6,800 !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I have my bank statements to prove it. I only purchased a hot tub on sale for 2300.00 in 2013 and set up auto pay to pay 200.00 monthly on that purchase. Now it’s 2015 and I owe 6,800!!! How’s that possible? Well I started looking and saw those empty purchases. I contacted Home Depot again and they told me they were going to look into it. And I believed them. At the same time they were just coming out about the data breach affecting their customers. I never heard another word from them. Then last year outta the blue I get served court papers to pay on that account by PORTFOLIO RECOVERY. I never even got notice from Home Depot on any problem. Try going back now and showing the transactions with the large dollar amounts but no merchandise. Is there someone else who had this happen to them? I can’t be the only one, can I? Well I only could turn the tables on them and ask them and Home Depot to now go back into the account and show me what I purchased. Three times now I’ve asked them for proof of what they say I owe. They send me the same statement from the month I contacted Home Depot and told them what was going on. And Home Depot knew I took auto pay off my account because I didn’t owe them any money. Well I had all my paper work ready to show the judge and the day before court I got a notice that Portfolio Recovery asked that the case he dismissed without prejudice. But here today I receive another notice from them on the other account with Home Depot. I only had a small amount ever on that card. It’s now up to 1,800. Oh yeah and I got new cards from them when I called in January 2015 about the problems. Home Depot/citi bank sent me a copy of charges after that date where they claim I used my cards to make purchases in my store near me. At the time I had a person living with me that I think was involved in this scamming of my money ( I wish someone would take an interest in helping me resolve this). But the managers of the Perris Home Depot I heard talking one day as I sat in my car and waited for someone to come out who was shopping. I think all of this is inside doing and citi bank knows it. And I even reported in a police report these new cards as being in my wallet when my wallet came up missing in February 2015. So charges on my bill after 1/11/2015 would have to be on new cards. The thing is I used my atm card to pay for things. I didn’t use my Home Depot cards because I was on a mission to pay off everything and retire with no bills. I am curious if this person I suspect was in with managers of Home Depot has any other things like this people have suspected him of orchestrating?
It’s a mess. And I totally am sick of fighting the same battle with them.
Oh yes, and whom ever did this also sold my information to the underground darkweb because after that everything went south for me. Someone even removed my work history off my credit report. And my credit report was all wrong. For 30 plus years I had excellent credit. I think it’s now at 600.

I've been getting a lot of emails from several emails asking me for my personal information saying that I won money how can I send those emails verify it and also somebody used my social security to get a mortgage loan out what do I do about that?

The emails that ask for your personal information might be from scammers. Some scammers say you have won a prize, then ask for your information, or ask you to pay, but you really don't get a prize. They use your information to charge your accounts, or take money from your bank. Don't share personal or financial information with someone you don't know.

You can learn more about Prize Scams in this FTC article.

If someone used your Social Security number to get a mortgage, go to and read about what to do. The site explains the steps to take when identity theft happens.

There should be a list of who they stole from, the amount and date of restitution. The courts should demand the thieves to be held accountable and pay back each person the amount they stole.

When these scamers are caught and fined, doe the victims receive any of this money to help compensate them for their losses?

In some cases, the FTC is able to get people all their money back.

In other cases, we are not. If that happens, the FTC gives as much money as possible to each buyer. The exact amount will depend on how much the defendants are able to pay, how much the court orders for refunds, and how many people bought the product.

If there are refunds in an FTC case, the information will be posted here.

As long as the penalty is not heavier than the benefit to the 3rd. Person/institution seller/buyer they'll continue assaulting peoples using the internet.

I would like to see an update on this article to show if the persons harmed by this scam received any reimbursement.

The FTC is as incompetent as these scammers are competent … They tell you to call this number or go to their website to report scams and that's nearly an impossibility because they're not interested in anything you have to say. Making a report is like filling out an application to get into kindergarten… It's ridiculous because they don't take anything you say seriously and they don't ask the right questions and they don't follow up. I suppose when 100,000 people finally submit complains about a specific company, they might do something but other than that… No

This should not have been a civil case it should be criminal case and all of those involved should have gone to jail.

Why is no one EVER sent to jail? How much would a person need to steal to actually get a jail sentence?

Jail the scammers, fine them triple the amount stolen, pay back victims with interest.

We have known for DECADES about abuses in the Credit AND Credit Reporting Agencies, but no one has ever made either group responsible for Verifying Data before entry, the Abuse of Data AND CRIMINALLY LIABLE for costs and damages when they screw up. Congress has let them slide repeatedly - unless someone pulls a real blunder and someone really big gets involved. I've never seen a valid credit report in my life, even the one at my 2001 bankruptcy was full of errors, and then they got worse. I have requested them through the F.T.C. and been denied access. Make them criminally and financially liable for verifying any credit information or close them down - dead, all records destroyed or sealed by the Government!


been scammed already out of $1800

I don't trust no one now


Tax preparer credibility?

I used a licensed CPA from INTUIT TURBO TAX to help me amend 2015 tax return about a month and a half ago. He sent my husband and I a form that allows him to communicate with the IRS, he stated he received it and said to give it about a week and we should know what the situation should be. It's been about 2 weeks and nothing! He probably is fine I'm just scared because we owe them 1700.00 and he said it's because we filed 2013 wrong, so I just don't want that to go to collection; or find out this guy isn't for real!!

Who is creating this drivel at the FTC?

Everyone should read this informative article.

More than one month on daily basis I am receiving calls from the number 309-832-4061. No message has been left. It is annoying me. Pease investigate and stop this nonsence

You can report this to the FTC at The information will go into the database that law enforcement uses for investigations.

Blog comments aren't included in the database.

Prior to arguing about the case, I suggest that the poster should read the entire case history, to which reference is made in the blog. There are apparently three more Defendants with whom no settlement agreement was reached: two (2) LLC's (Limited Liability Corporations) and one (1) individual. Furthermore, the 3 individuals with whom settlement was reached have represented to the federal court that they are unable to pay the imposed fines or they are able to pay a drastically reduced fine. I recall that for the Defendant who had the 7.1 mil. fine imposed, the court reduced it to $15,000 or some other ridiculous amount. It's a good summary of what's happening, so far. The article stated that the cases against the remaining Defendants will be litigated.

I don't like the settlement agreements, either; however, it's possible that there's no provision for criminal charges or, more likely, the remaining cases could have criminal charges after litigation or criminal charges will be forthcoming against the non-settling Defendants. With my limited legal knowledge, ("knowledge " isn't the right term!) it seems to me that it would be easier to prosecute criminally after a civil judgment is obtained.

8/21/2015 Our Co.received a call from Delta Western Co. and said they have been in business for 18 years. Asking for investors to join a Helium project , he stated a full unit is $13000.00 then he said 50000.00 for another. Im bothered because of sec ques., he asked if we had a substantial amt. of $ to invest then asked my age unfortunately i told him without thinking Duh!They are emailing me info. and i can forward it to you if you need.He (James) said owner is Mat Hilyard Hilliard (do not no spelling) address 13601 Preston Rd. Ste. 312. Let me know what you think. Thank You

If you're considering a securities investment, visit for tips. Check any investment opportunity with your state securities agency.

This article about Investment Risks has more information for you.

They're called data brokers, and they are collecting, analyzing and packaging some of our most sensitive personal information and selling it as a commodity. Much of this is the kind of harmless consumer marketing that's been going on for decades.

i just received something stating that there is a "state-regulated program to pay for your final expenses". it is a no-postage-required business reply card asking for name, home address (which is odd, as that information is right next to the request--on the card to be returned--phone number, age, spouse's age, spouse's name. i did some research and found this is a scam. in addition, my state (SC), unlike most states, doesn't even have a program to assist with burial expenses for people who receive government benefits (TANF, SNAP, etc.). i also learned that this scam is used on SENIORS--i.e. SS recipients/medicare recipients. well, i receive SSDI and therefore medicare, though i am under 65. i became eligible for medicare on NOVEMBER 1--and received this on november 15. coincidence?? i think not. therefore, the ONLY agencies/companies that know i am a medicare recipient are: SS, my state DHHS, my PDP insurance provided and my pharmacy. clearly ONE of these is selling information...

I don’t even see my last comment posted here. There is a problem I’m having hacking issues with my home network .

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