Pennsylvania Record

Sunday, October 20, 2019

Court dismisses 'spoofing' portion of debt-collection lawsuit

Federal Court

By Charmaine Little | Jul 10, 2019

Judge Richard Barclay Surrick

PHILADELPHIA – A Pennsylvania woman’s claims that a debt collection company violated the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act were dismissed in part in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania on June 18.

Judge R. Barclay Surrick ruled on Diversified Consultants Inc.’s motion to dismiss the suit filed by Greays Mendoza. 

Mendoza’s mother, Isabel Bermudez, was the target for Diversified’s conduct concerning Bermudez’s two accounts that were in collections. While neither Mendoza nor Bermudez gave Mendoza’s phone number to Diversified, the company called Mendoza several times concerning Bermudez’s debt. Bermudez also called out Diversified for using a false caller ID, known as “spoofing,” when it made it seem as if it was calling from a Pennsylvania area code. 

Diversified is located in Jacksonville, Florida. Spoofing is a violation of the FDCPA. 

Bermudez then filed a lawsuit for alleged violation of the FDCPA and the Telephone Consumer Protection Act. Diversified wants FDCPA Counts (I and II) of the lawsuit dismissed.

Surrick ruled since Bermudez successfully pointed out the injury she suffered as a result of Diversified’s calls (i.e. emotional distress), she has properly stated a claim for FDCPA. But when it came to using a local area code, the court said while the FDCPA prohibits debt collector from using “any false representation or deceptive means to collect or attempt to collect any debt or to obtain information concerning a consumer,” that might not be the case in this situation. 

It added, “Plaintiff has not identified any specific subjection that defendant allegedly violated.” When Diversified used a different area code, that didn’t necessarily entice Bermudez to receive incorrect information. The phone numbers do indeed belong to Diversified, despite being local to Pennsylvania. The situation would be different if defendant had an actual person’s name listed on the caller ID,” Surrick wrote.

Surrick ruled Bermudez failed to allege a subsection that Diversified violated in her claim that it used “unfair or unconscionable means to collect or attempt to collect any debt.” Rather, Bermudez said a local area code on her caller ID violated the Truth in Caller ID Act. This still creates a rift as she failed to state a claim under section 1682e or 1692f specifically for the FDCPA. Thus, the court dismissed Count III.

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Diversified Consultants Inc.

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