Bellevue Internet company Intelius has agreed to a $1.3 million settlement with the Washington attorney general after consumers complained they were tricked into signing up for an online identity-protection program.

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Bellevue Internet company Intelius has agreed to a $1.3 million settlement with the Washington attorney general after consumers complained they were tricked into signing up for an online identity-protection program.

Attorney General Rob McKenna announced the settlement in a Tuesday news conference.

“Intelius chose cash over candor,” McKenna said.

Intelius did not admit any wrongdoing but agreed to remove the program. The settlement was filed in King County Superior Court.

“We will comply with the consent decree and are happy to put this issue behind us so we can focus on providing great products and services to our customers in Washington and around the country,” the company.

Intelius runs the Web sites intelius.com and peoplelookup.com, which provide search services of phone numbers and addresses.

After submitting their credit-card data to Intelius but before getting their search results, customers were offered $10 for enrolling in a program called Identity Protect.

They were directed to a prominent button to answer yes, meaning they would be enrolled and subsequently charged a $19.95 monthly fee. Although there was a small disclaimer on the page, customers complained they didn’t know they were signing up for the program.

The Attorney General’s Office believes Intelius made $62 million from the program.

Intelius had also partnered with Adaptive Marketing, a Connecticut firm with membership-loyalty programs, which offered $10 upon checkout in exchange for enrolling in various programs with monthly fees.

As part of the settlement, Intelius will contact customers eligible for restitution and let them know how they can recover their losses. Customers who do not receive any information and believe they are eligible should contact McKenna’s office.

The settlement money will be used to pay restitution and $300,000 in attorney’s fees.

Jim Sorenson, an Issaquah resident, said he did a search for a phone number for work a year ago, and three months later started getting charged $19.95 a month for Intelius’ Identity Protection program. He said he tried calling Intelius and was unable to get the money refunded, so he sent a letter to the Attorney General’s Office, copying Intelius on the letter. The company refunded his money afterward.

His advice to consumers: “Scrutinize your credit-card bills.”

Kate Willmore, a family-law attorney in St. Cloud, Minn., said she spent six months trying to stop Intelius from charging her card after she went to the site to get a copy of a property record.

She said when she called Intelius, “they would talk over me and tell me why I should continue paying for this service. Finally I just used the broken-record technique and said, ‘Don’t charge my card, don’t charge my card, don’t charge my card.’ “

That didn’t work, so she filed a complaint with the state of Minnesota and wrote letters to Intelius. She got an Intelius letter this month saying the charges will be refunded.

Willmore said that even if the settlement only reflected Washington consumers who lost money, it still seemed paltry.

“They can make $62 million and only pay out $1.3 million, that’s just a cost of doing business,” she said.

Intelius spokesman James Cullinan declined to comment on individual complaints.

Shannon Smith, assistant attorney general, called the $1.3 million settlement a “negotiated figure.”

“We had to be careful about the risk of going to court and having a judge say, ‘Maybe it’s deceptive, maybe it’s not,’ ” she said.

Sharon Pian Chan: 206-464-2958 or schan@seattletimes.com