A Burbank man is facing fraud charges in Illinois for allegedly charging customers for unsolicited identity theft protection services.
The owner of Glendale-based ID Lifeguards Inc., Arthur Natanyan, faces charges under the provisions of Illinois' Consumer Fraud and Deceptive Business Practices Act. Illinois Atty. Gen. Lisa Madigan is asking a judge to prohibit ID Lifeguards from offering services in Illinois, as well as pay restitution to consumers, a civil penalty of $50,000 per defendant and an additional $50,000 for each act committed with the intent to defraud.
The lawsuit, filed by Madigan, alleges the company broke state law by duping consumers into buying identity protection for a monthly fee after responding to sale offers for other products on third-party websites.
Between September 2009 and March 2010, 5,071 Illinois customers were charged $157,562 on phone bills under miscellaneous charges, according to court documents.
Neither Natanyan nor ID Lifeguards responded to requests for comment.
ID Lifeguards offered an identity protection service to Illinois consumers through third-party websites and via direct online registration.
According to the lawsuit filed with the Illinois district circuit court, if consumers made certain choices while signing up to the services or products offered through the websites — such as discount coupons, online contests and other unrelated identity protection services — they were redirected to a page owned by Natanyan asking for personal information, including a telephone number.
Any consumers that entered a telephone number on the sign-up page were charged $12.95 monthly on their phone bills as "ID Lifeguard Credit Protect/Repair Mthly."
None of the Illinois consumers contacted by Madigan knowingly signed up for the services offered by ID Lifeguards, according to the lawsuit. The company gave refunds to 56% of the consumers billed in Illinois, but the lawsuit alleges that the high number of refunds indicates the company knew it was making unauthorized charges for unwanted services.
The company's websites also promised credit reports to consumers, but never sent them, according to court documents.
"Unfortunately, it is fairly easy for companies to add charges to your telephone bill that have nothing to do with your phone service," Madigan said in a statement. "Consumers should be aware of this and carefully check their phone bills each month for any additional charges."
No court date has been set in the matter.