The Federal Trade Commission caught Equifax, one of the three major credit reporting companies, selling their lists of homeowners who made late mortgage payments to a third-party direct marketing specialist. This violates the Fair Credit Reporting Act, and is also about the sleaziest thing you can do – profiting off the financial difficulties of others.

Today, the Federal Trade Commission announced a settlement with Equifax over allegations that between 2008 and 2010 the consumer reporting agency had improperly sold lists of consumers with late mortgage payments to a company called Direct Lending and its affiliates.

Equifax is alleged to have sold around 17,000 separate lists containing sensitive information — including credit scores and how delinquent the consumer was on their mortgage payment — on millions of U.S. consumers during this time.

Direct Lending was actually the go-between buying the lists and then selling them, presumably at a profit, to marketers. There exist some products that homeowners with late mortgage payments would be susceptible to purchasing, none of them particularly good for them, I gather. In particular, the marketers pitched the borrowers on loan modification and debt relief services, which borrowers can obtain for free on their own. These are precisely the type of loan mod fraud scams that the Justice Department has just gotten around to prosecuting. Many of the companies that bought the lists from Direct Lending are under investigation themselves.

Two of those third parties, Nova Key LLC of Maryland and Mason Capital Group LLC of California, allegedly misled struggling homeowners into paying costly upfront fees to secure loan modifications from their lenders, then failed to deliver the modifications as promised, the complaints state.

Equifax will pay $393,000 and Direct Lending $1.2 million to settle the charges with the FTC. Predictably, Equifax will not have to admit or deny wrongdoing in the settlement, even though the FTC alleges they knew about how Direct Lending re-sold their lists to marketers. That’s just the way the world works now.

I don’t see how you can view what Equifax did here as anything but aiding and abetting a crime against consumers. That’s apparently not enough to get legitimate accountability these days.