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Fines Over Discarded Files

Empire Equity, Home Finance settle with N.C.

February 9, 2007

By MortgageDaily.com staff

Two mortgage companies in North Carolina have been fined for improperly disposing mortgage applicant's personal information.

Empire Equity Group and Home Finance Mortgage Inc. settled with the North Carolina attorney general allegations that they put customers and employees at greater risk of identity theft by illegally dumping old records containing personal information, according to an announcement.

"These companies turned trash into treasure for identity thieves by dumping their customers personal information," Attorney General Ray Cooper said. "We wont tolerate companies that break the law and put people at risk of identity theft."

Under North Carolina law, businesses that dispose of personal identifying information are required to destroy or shred those records, so that identity thieves are not able to retrieve information. Because state laws also require that consumers whose personal information may have been lost or stolen due to a security breach be notified, Empire and Home Finance were required to notify such consumers.

Empire and Jonathan Lee Bailey, who served as a branch manager at a former Charlotte office, agreed to pay the state $12,500. According to the attorney general's office, on or around Oct. 20, 2006, Bailey threw in the dumpster files that included personal financial details about people who applied for mortgages.

Home Finance, which operated in Cornelius until sometime in 2005 or 2006, and its owners, Stephen and Terri Newsom, agreed to pay $3,000 after the office found that it dumped files containing names, addresses, Social Security numbers, credit card numbers, and bank account numbers of mortgage applicants last November, according to the announcement. The office said it found out about these violations through reports from neighboring businesses, consumers and local reporters.

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