Dyck O’Neal is a “debt collector”

August 23, 2015

As a defedant in dozens of lawsuits in Florida filed under the FDCPA, Dyck O’Neal regularly disputes that it is a “debt collector.”  Establishing that Dyck O’Neal is a “debt collector” is a requirement for the plaintiff to obtain a judgment under the FDCPA.

Dyck O’Neal is a “Debt Collector” as defined by the FDCPA. “Debt collectors” are defined by the FDCPA as “any person who uses any instrumentality of interstate commerce in any business the principal purpose of which is the collection of any debts, or who regularly collects or attempts to collect, directly or indirectly, debts owed or due or asserted to be owed or due another.” 15 U.S.C § 1692a(6). Because the instrumentalities of interstate commerce include telephone and the mails, virtually all commercial collection activities fall within the realm of the FDCPA.
Dyck O’Neal is the holder of a License as a Consumer Collection Agency issued by the Florida Office of Financial Regulation effective December 31, 2014 and originally issued on November 23, 1994. Florida Statutes §559.55(4) defines the license holder as:
(3) “Consumer collection agency” means any debt collector or business entity engaged in the business of soliciting consumer debts for collection or of collecting consumer debts, which debt collector or business is not expressly exempted as set forth in s. 559.553(3).

This definition is strikingly close to the definition found in the FDCPA:

(6) The term “debt collector” means any person who uses any instrumentality of interstate commerce or the mails in any business the principal purpose of which is the collection of any debts, or who regularly collects or attempts to collect, directly or indirectly, debts owed or due or asserted to be owed or due another.

The web coding on all of the pages on Dyck O’Nea’s webpage describes it as “The Leading Nationwide Purchaser, Collector and Servicer of Real Estate Loans.”

Claim for $50 in attorney’s fees violates FDCPA (in Ohio)

October 18, 2012

Consumer, Mary, Moxley, entered into a consumer loan agreement with Cash Stop in order to borrow $279.96. The loan Agreement contained an attorney fee shifting provision. The provision purported to allow Cash Stop to charge Plaintiff attorney fees incurred to collect under the contract in the event of Plaintiff’s default. When the consumer defaulted, Cash Stop hired attorney Pfundstein to collect the debt under the loan agreement. Pfundstein filed a complaint against consumer to collect the debt. The complaint requested judgment in the amount of $319.96, which included default charges and other fees. In addition, the complaint sought $50.00 for attorney fees. The complaint stated: “In addition, whereas the defendant(s) agreed in the contract to pay reasonable attorneys’ fees, the plaintiff requests $50.00.”

Consumer filed a complaint in federal court against Pfundstein claiming that was guilty of violating the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) by making a false, misleading and deceptive statement in the lawsuit that he filed on behalf of Cash Stop against her with regard to the claim for recovery of attorney’s fees. The consumer then moved for summary judgment on her claim.

The unique aspect of this case is that under Ohio law, creditors are not permitted to recover attorney fees incurred in connection with debt collection suits involving personal, family, or household debt.

Defendant/attorney claimed that the request for attorney’s fees was a good faith mistake of law.

The Court granted the consumer’s motion for summary judgment noting that because the FDCPA has been generally recognized as a strict-liability statute, even a good-faith error can give rise to liability. The Court found that attorney Pfunstein had violated the FDCPA by seeking to recover $50 in attorney’s fees in the underlying action, when such fees were not permitted by Ohio law.

Moxley v. Pfundstein, 2012 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 146868 (N.D. Ohio Oct. 11, 2012)

Debt Collectors May Seek You Out Via Facebook

September 20, 2012

Facebook is great for looking up that girl who stole your lunchbox in preschool. Being clever enough on Twitter can land you a book deal. And if you’re a debt collector, social media is remarkably helpful in helping you to track down people who haven’t paid their bills.

“Between Facebook and LinkedIn—a lot of people show up online in different places. They don’t even realize,” says Howard Beloff, president of CSRS Collections, a small collection agency in Rockville, Md.

Beloff’s company collects on a variety of debts: late rent, medical companies, delinquent private school tuition. In many cases, he says, especially in those of people who have amassed rent bills, these debtors have moved and are hard to find. That’s where the investigative work of debt collecting comes in. And in the arsenal of tools at their disposal, debt collectors find social media an immensely helpful addition.

A few decades ago, collectors had to rely old-school tools like the White Pages for basic information on whether a debtor had moved or changed phone numbers. The Internet changed that completely, says Mark Schiffman, spokesperson for ACA International, a trade group of credit and collection professionals.

“From a tech perspective, it’s easier access to public information, versus having 50 phone books or 100 phone books in my office,” Schiffman says. “Now you have the Internet and people putting information that’s publicly available out there. People are putting out a little billboard” for themselves, he says.

That’s not all of the help that the Internet affords collectors. Some states put their court records online, and online “skip tracing” sites help agencies find potential addresses for debtors.

It sounds like a lot of avenues to pursue, just to track down where someone lives. But all this online information can be used for much larger purposes. An up-to-date LinkedIn site can give a collector easy information on if and where that person works, says Beloff, which is valuable information for a collection agency that wants to garnish a debtor’s wages. In other words, put information—a public Facebook status, a LinkedIn update, a tweet—about getting hired at a new job onto the internet and collectors get a signal that you might have money available.

Simply reading what a debtor has made public on social media is not illegal, and it’s hard to argue it’s unethical; collectors are simply using available information. Still, there are strict laws ensuring that the investigation goes little further. While a debt collector can look at a debtor’s Facebook page, Twitter feed, or LinkedIn listing for information, for example, she can’t tweet, message, or even E-mail the debtor with information about outstanding balances.

One collector talks about the difference between acceptable tactics and those that venture into deceptive territory.

“If I were to be a bit surreptitious and if I were to actually try to become your friend on Facebook and you were to accept me as a friend on Facebook, I would get access to all kinds of really, really good information on you,” says Bill Bartmann, CEO of Oklahoma-based debt collection company CFS II. That kind of deception, he says, is different from simply Googling or Facebook-searching a debtor.

Schiffman says that while complaints have been filed with the government over the use of social media in collections, he does not believe that the use of social media has led to a spike in complaints. Still, debt collection complaints have risen in recent years, from 128,000 in 2009 to nearly 152,000 in 2010, and again to nearly 181,000 in 2011.

According to data supplied by ACA, debt collections have also grown recently. Collections at third-party debt collectors totaled $44.6 billion in 2010 , up more than $4 billion from 2007, before the crisis, though employment at those firms was down slightly over the same period.

However, the population of debtors to pursue is growing: Roughly one in seven Americans—slightly more than 14 percent—is being pursued by a debt collector, according to the Federal Reserve Bank of New York. That’s up substantially from mid 2003, when the figure was around 9 percent. The amount available to collect is up, too, from around $900 per debtor then to over $1,500 now.

While a certain, small percentage of debtors habitually run up bills and neglect to pay them, says Bartmann. the recent economic downturn brought a new population onto the debtor rolls: people not used to being pursued. While some may be facing financial hardship and be unable to pay, there are many others who want to get their debts discharged quickly.

He feels that this new population has, in some ways, made collections easier.

“Are customers more apt to pay now than in previous economic cycles? That answer is yes,” Bartmann says.

Still, he advises caution to anyone making too much of their lives public online. His word of advice to debtors: “Be careful what you put out there.”

That, he says, or just pay your bills as best you can. Neglecting to pay altogether can make prices higher and credit tougher to get for everyone.

Beloff agrees: “The thing is, is that for anybody who pays their bills, they should hate people who don’t.”

U.S. News & World Report

By Danielle Kurtzleben

Florida Consumer Debt Collection Practices Act

July 3, 2012

In 1993, the Florida Legislature enacted the Florida Consumer Collection Practices Act (“FCCPA”) which law targets unfair debt collection tactics, including those inflicted upon residential mortgage customers. The statute proscribes a broad range of deceptive, harassing, and abusive practices.  It also provides a right to bring litigation against wrongdoers and to recover actual damages, costs, and attorney fees.

The following are some of the most common possible violations of the FCCPA:

•    Harassment – frequent phone calls to alleged debtors, their family and friends, repeated calls with no messages, hang-ups, lies, misleading comments, speaking in a belittling manner, embarrassing, argumentative and rude conduct are examples of harassing conduct.

•    Collecting money not owed – if an alleged debtor doesn’t owe the money it is a violation of the law for a collector to try and force the alleged debtor to pay the money.

•    Threats – creating a “false sense of urgency” or suggesting arrest, criminal prosecution, jail.

•    Calls at work – calls to the workplace, especially after a collector is told not to call, such as speaking to or leaving messages with a receptionist, calling the cell phone while alleged debtor is at work or calling alleged debtors direct line, is a violation.

•    Contacting 3rd parties – collectors may not contact any party about a debt without the express permission of the alleged debtor, including the spouse or any other family member, neighbors, friends, or co-workers.

•    Written Notice – collectors must send a written notice stating the amount of the debt, the creditor to whom the debt is owed, and a statement that the debtor has 30 days to in writing dispute the debt. Upon receiving written notice that a consumer disputes a debt, the collector within 30days must obtain written verification and validation of the amount of the debt, the creditor to whom the debt is owed and must mail said verification to the consumer.

•    Proof of debts – debt collectors are required by federal law to send “verification and validation” of a debt when the alleged debtor in writing disputes the debt within 30 days of a debt collector’s first contact.

•    Refusing to cease contact – all communications, including telephone calls and letters, must immediately stop once a debt collector receives a “cease and desist” letter. There is no specific required language, only a directive that all communications must stop. All cease and desist letters should be sent with return receipt requested.

•    Contact after attorney representation – once a collector is told a individual is represented by all conversations, messages, letters or any other communication must immediately stop.

For more information about the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, ot, its state law counterpart, the Florida Consumer Collection Practices Act, visit us at:

Defendant was not a “debt collector” under the FDCPA

May 31, 2012

Plaintiff secured a line of credit with Defendant to purchase computer equipment.  Thereafter, Plaintiff became delinquent in her payments to Defendant, and Defendant began calling Plaintiff’s mobile phone with prerecorded messages regarding the debt.  Plaintiff sent Defendant a letter asking Defendant to cease calling her which was received by Defendant.  Plaintiff asserts that this “letter revoked her consent that she had previously given to the Defendant to place calls to her cellular telephone number.”   Plaintiff maintains, however, that Defendant continued to place an additional “forty calls to her cellular phone in less than three weeks.

 Defendant filed a Motion to Dismiss the Complaint.  The Court held that Defendant did not qualify as a “debt collector” under the FDCPA.   Creditors who collect in their own name and whose principal business is not debt collection . . . are not subject to the [FDCPA]. . . . Because creditors are generally presumed to restrain their abusive collection practices out of a desire to protect their corporate goodwill, their debt collection activities are not subject to the [FDCPA] unless they collect under a name other than their own.  “Creditors—as opposed to debt collectors—generally are not subject to the FDCPA.”   “A ‘debt collector’ is broadly defined as one who attempts to collect debts ‘owed or due or asserted to be owed or due to another.'”   A “creditor,” on the other hand, is one who “offers or extends to offer credit creating a debt or to whom a debt is owed.”  One cannot be both a “creditor” and a “debt  collector” as defined under the FDCPA because the terms are mutually exclusive.

 Motion to Dismiss was granted.

 Gager v. Dell Fin. Servs., 2012 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 73752 (M.D. Pa. May 29, 2012).

For more information about the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, ot, its state law counterpart, the Florida Consumer Collection Practices Act, visit us at: