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Bank charged with sale of data to telemarketers

ST. PAUL, Minn. -- A large bank illegally sold account balance information and other private data on a million customers -- including some Utahns -- to a telemarketing company for $4 million, Minnesota officials alleged in a lawsuit Wednesday.

Minneapolis-based U.S. Bank violated the federal Fair Credit Reporting Act and engaged in consumer fraud and deceptive advertising, according to the lawsuit filed in federal court by Attorney General Mike Hatch.Hatch asked the court to prohibit the bank from exchanging customers' personal information and to make the bank pay civil penalties to customers.

Information sold by the bank included customer names, Social Security numbers, birth dates, credit limits, marital status, occupation and homeownership status, the lawsuit said.

Member Works Inc. of Stamford, Conn., said it used the data to sell services such as memberships in a medical discount program. The bank also illegally allowed Member Works to automatically withdraw payments from checking accounts without written customer authorization, Hatch said.

U.S. Bancorp, parent company of U.S. Bank, denied the accusations.

"Our direct marketing program is very carefully managed. Our partners at no time have access to customer accounts," said Donn Waage, a spokesman for the nation's 13th-largest bank holding company.

About 70,000 bank customers have purchased products through Member Works, Waage said. "When customers agree to purchase a product, their approval is voice-recorded with their permission," he said.