Data brokers sell your personal information without your knowledge

RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) - Your personal information is constantly being collected and sold, but have you ever wondered how companies get your information in the first place?

Certain sensitive information is protected, but data brokers can essentially buy and sell whatever they learn about you, without any input from you.

People who make lots of money - and people with financial problems - are lucrative targets for data brokers. They represent big dollars and are marketed as 'sales leads' to lenders.

Businesses that buy from data brokers include banks, mortgage lenders and credit card companies. Information about your hobbies, what you buy at the grocery store, whether you gamble online... it's all collected and sold.

There's a growing trend to customize ads and offers by using online buying habits, smartphones, public records, and social media to collect your information.

Your medical records are protected. Federal law also protects the confidentiality of conversations with your doctor.

Data brokers say the practice benefits everyone and is a way to get relevant ads and offers to people, based on their individual situations. The Federal Trade Commission and lawmakers are looking at brokers to see whether any are breaking the Fair Credit Reporting Act.

Right now, there is no law that prohibits data brokers from identifying consumers as financially at risk.

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