If being hounded by lenders with questionable motives and expertise isn’t enough to steer you away from "Lending Tree" (whom we note has gone the high-profile sports sponsorship route previously tried by Ameriquest, but instead of baseball, with our beloved PGA Tour – excuse us while we puke) how about this:
several former employees" may have shared confidential passwords with "a handful" of lenders that were not approved by the company.
The lenders then used those passwords to access customer information files that contained mortgage request data such as name, address, e-mail address, phone number, Social Security number, income and employment information.
10-1 says these "lenders" or empoyees were selling access to that data.
UPDATE: Sam Glover (of our local Caveat Emptor, riding shotgun over at Consumerist for a couple of days) hoisted this post, along with some correspondence from Lending Tree attorneys who sought the removal of one of the comments.
The attorney, who called twice and emailed three times before noon, requested that we remove the comment by "Lance Moore" below, which contains some interesting and provacative allegations about Lending Tree’s business model, among other things.
He first emailed under the cover of "please remove the non-public URL, this guy is encouraging hackers." Then, when we redacted that url, the attorney followed up right away stating that the comment contained numerous "defamatory" comments and again requested that the comment be removed.
The attorney walked the line pretty carefully, and did not make any explicit threats, but here’s the thing: Any time we get an email from a corporate attorney tossing around jargon like "defamatory" and using interrogative sentences like: "Are you refusing to remove this?" we consider that a veiled, if unspoken, threat of legal action.
After all, if they really wanted the whole comment removed, why didn’t they just ask for that in the first place? That was what struck us as odd, and might mean their motives were not confined to angst over a hackable public url leading to a lender login page. Maybe related to this? from Sam at Consumerist:
Full Copy of the Email Sent to Customers Below [via reader Alec Grebis.]
April 21, 2008
Dear LendingTree Customer:
We want you to know that some loan request forms our customers sent to LendingTree may have been seen by lenders without our consent. These lenders then used the forms to market their own mortgage loans to our customers. While we don’t believe that the forms were used for any other purpose, we want you to know what happened and what we did to correct this situation, as well as what you can do to monitor your credit records.
What Happened and What We Did
Recently, LendingTree learned that several former employees may have helped a handful of mortgage lenders gain access to LendingTree’s customer information by sharing confidential passwords with the lenders. When we learned of this situation, we quickly contacted the authorities, and LendingTree is helping with their investigation. We promptly made several system security changes. We also brought lawsuits against those involved.
Based on our investigation, we understand that these mortgage lenders used the passwords to access LendingTree’s customer loan request forms, normally available only to LendingTree-approved lenders, to market loans to those customers. The loan request forms contained data such as name, address, email address, telephone number, Social Security number, income and employment information. We believe these lenders accessed LendingTree’s loan request forms between October 2006 and early 2008.
What You Can Do
Again, we don’t believe any identity theft or fraudulent financial activity resulted from this situation. However, we suggest you get a free credit report. Look for any accounts you didn’t open and/or inquiries from creditors that you didn’t initiate. If you see anything you don’t understand, contact the credit bureau. If you see anything suspicious, you may want to file a fraud alert with the bureaus. For more information on how to do this, please refer to LendingTree’s Guide to Protecting Your Credit and Identity.
Where to Get More Information
We regret any inconvenience and apologize for any unwanted mortgage calls you may have received. For more information about this situation, and for more information on what you can do, please refer to the attached Questions & Answers .