Data digger Intelius to pay $1.3m after Vertrue scheme nets them $50m

Gergana Koleva

Online background checker Intelius duped hundreds of thousands of consumers through deceptive advertising tactics that earned it more than $50 million in lucrative commissions from third-party vendors, a two-year investigation by the Washington State Attorney General's office has found.

The investigation, launched in June 2008, focused on an Internet sales method known as post-transaction marketing, in which consumers are offered other services after they've submitted their credit card data to make a purchase. Some of the more well-known promise $10 rebates for rating a transaction or signing up for a loyalty program. Intelius deployed the tactic to lure customers into enrolling in subscription membership programs after they agreed to purchase search results, but before they had confirmed payment, according to the complaint.

In exchange, Intelius received commissions from Adaptive Marketing, the principal membership vendor it promoted. Adaptive Marketing is a subsidiary of Vertrue, which in 2009 drew the attention of a U.S. Senate investigation due to the number of complaints about its services. The company also markets credit score monitoring services and has a long history of consumer complaints.