Payday loan companies approved changes to bill regulating their industry, emails show


The CEOs and lobbyists for Florida’s largest payday loan companies approved changes to a controversial industry bill as it worked its way through the Legislature this year, emails show.

Emails between a Florida House employee and industry representatives show she repeatedly asked the industry before making changes to the bill, which would allow payday loan companies to offer bigger loans with higher fees.

“Please let me know by 5pm today whether you have questions, comments, concerns, tweaks, etc.,” analyst Meredith Hinshelwood wrote in January, after sending them an “updated version” of the bill. “If I do not hear back by that time, I will assume you are good with the proposed changes.”

“These changes are fine with us,” replied Jessica Rustin, the chief legal officer and chief compliance officer for Advance America.


“The changes are all good with me too,” wrote Ian MacKechnie, the founder and CEO of Tampa-based payday lender Amscot.

The payday loan bill has passed the Senate and still has to get through the House this week, but its passage is all but guaranteed. It has received almost no opposition from Republicans or Democrats in the Legislature.

The emails were obtained in a records request by Karl Frisch, executive director of the Washington-based Allied Progress, a liberal group that has targeted the industry.

Included in the conversations were industry lobbyists and employees with the Florida Office of Financial Regulation, which regulates payday loans.

Notably absent from the email chains: opponents of the bill, including Alice Vickers, director of the Florida Alliance for Consumer Protection.

“It’s disappointing, no doubt about it,” Vickers said. “Sadly, I don’t think it’s that unusual.”


Read more here:

Trump is systematically backing off consumer protections, to the delight of corporations

President Trump and the regulators he appointed are taking a far less aggressive approach to consumer protection than their predecessors, delaying key regulations and imposing fewer penalties against financial institutions and other corporations accused of wrongdoing, according to a Washington Post review of available data and interviews with consumer advocates and government officials.

At the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, for example, enforcement actions have dropped from an average of three-to-five each month during the past four years down to zero since a Trump appointee took charge of the agency in late November.

The Labor Department has delayed full implementation of a rule requiring financial advisers to act in their clients’ best interest.

And the Department of Education has withdrawn Obama-era regulations meant to strengthen protections for student borrowers.

The new approach — welcomed by banks and business leaders — has alarmed consumer advocates who fear it gives an advantage to Wall Street and other powerful industries while leaving ordinary Americans more susceptible to fraud, discrimination and predatory lending.

“There hasn’t been a lot that has been methodical about this presidency, but I do think Trump is systematically dismantling consumer protections,” said Mark Totten, a Michigan State University law professor who studies the enforcement of consumer protection laws and a 2014 Democratic candidate for Michigan attorney general.

The new direction affects agencies that touch nearly every aspect of consumer life, advocates say — from how Americans access credit and car loans to the safety of cribs and cellphones.

The regulatory pullback illustrates a philosophical difference over how best to protect consumers. Barack Obama, in response to the financial crisis that rocked the first year of his presidency, attempted to rein in Wall Street and big banks with tighter regulation of the banking system. He wielded his executive power to force change in other industries, as well.

Read more:

Tax Identity Theft Cases Drop for Second Year

The number of tax-related cases of identity theft dropped sharply in 2017, according to the IRS, which attributes the success to the Security Summit initiatives that help safeguard the nation’s taxpayers.

Key indicators of identity theft dropped for the second year in a row in 2017. This includes a 40 percent decline in taxpayers reporting they are victims of identity theft in 2016. Since 2015, the number of tax-related identity theft victims has fallen by almost two-thirds and billions of dollars of taxpayer refunds have been protected.

“These dramatic declines reflect the continuing success of the Security Summit effort,” said Acting IRS Commissioner David Kautter. “This partnership between the IRS, states and the tax community is helping protect taxpayers against identity theft. More work remains in this effort, and we look forward to continuing this collaborative effort to fight identity theft and refund fraud.”

The Internal Revenue Service, state tax agencies and the tax industry have started their third filing season working as the Security Summit, a private-public sector partnership formed in 2015 to combat identity theft. Summit partners have put in place multiple behind-the-scenes safeguards that are helping protect the nation’s taxpayers.

Because the IRS and Summit partners have stepped up efforts to stop suspected fraudulent returns from entering tax processing systems, there continues to be a substantial decline in the number of taxpayers reporting that they are victims of identity theft.

See more at:

50 percent of adults have not checked their credit since the Equifax breach

Have you checked your credit score recently? Probably not.

Half of U.S. adults in a new survey said they have not looked at their credit report or credit score since a huge data breach last year at credit scoring company Equifax compromised the personal information of at least 145.5 million U.S. consumers.'s latest study also found that 18 percent of the 1,164 adults surveyed have never checked their credit report or credit score.

"If the announcement of something that significant won't get people to act, then it raises the question of what will," said Matt Schulz, senior industry analyst at "I think people just feel that they have more pressing things to do."

About 3 in 10 survey respondents who had heard "a lot" about the breach still hadn't checked their credit in the past six months.

Millennials were most likely not to have heard about the breach — 26 percent. Yet at the same time, millennials checked both their credit score and report in the last six months at a higher rate — 34 percent — than any other generation.

See more at:

11 charged in connection with credit card/fuel theft ring in Miami-Dade County

MIAMI-DADE COUNTY, Fla. - Eleven people have been charged in connection with a credit card/fuel theft ring in Miami-Dade County, the Miami-Dade State Attorney's Office announced Tuesday.

State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle said at a news conference that authorities are searching for three of the 11 suspects.

The suspects face various charges ranging from racketeering, money laundering, possession of skimming devices and dealing in stolen property, among others.

According to the state attorney, a group of thieves known to detectives as "The Hernandez Crew" placed skimming devices at gas stations throughout South Florida to acquire people's credit card information.

Fernandez Rundle said the group, whose leader was identified as Adryan Hernandez Morera, of AHM Trucking Inc., would then use counterfeit cards to purchase gasoline, which they would store in bladder fuel tanks that were outfitted inside trucks, vans and buses.

The fuel would then be sold at a cheaper cost to South River Fuel. Inc., which is run by President Jorge Guerra Victoria, authorities said.

Fernandez Rundle said during an eight-month period the scheme resulted in about $98,000 worth of fraudulent gas purchases a month. 

See more at:

Equifax Data Breach Was Bigger Than Previously Reported

Equifax hackers reportedly accessed more personal information than previously disclosed, but the additional breach may not have put consumers at more risk than they already are, a cybersecurity expert says.

The credit rating agency, which disclosed the massive hack in September, reported the additional breaches in documents submitted to the Senate Banking Committee, the Wall Street Journal reported Friday.

In addition to the data that had previously been disclosed, hackers were able to access “tax identification numbers, email addresses and drivers’ license information beyond the license numbers,” the Journal said.

More than 145 million Americans were affected by the Equifax hack last summer. The personal information accessed—which included Social Security numbers, driver’s license numbers, and credit card numbers—would allow criminals to steal a consumer’s identity and open fraudulent accounts.

While alarming, the disclosure that additional personal information was accessed doesn’t necessarily put consumers at more risk than before.

“This is negative news, and it doesn’t look good for Equifax,” says Al Pascual, senior vice president and research director at Javelin Strategy & Research. “But considering the scale of the breach, this additional information doesn’t move the needle. If the additional data is encompassed within the 145 million people originally impacted, then it’s not something to be concerned about.” 

Read more at:

An act of madness: CFPB said to be letting Equifax off the hook for data breach

The down-is-up world of the Trump administration grew even battier Monday amid reports that the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau is scaling back its investigation into credit agency Equifax, which allowed hackers to access the personal information of more than 145 million Americans.

Because, you know, why would you want the nation's top consumer watchdog aggressively looking into one of the worst data breaches in the country's history?

When I first heard the news, I felt a little like Alice trying to adjust to the impossible happening. "One can't believe impossible things," she laments.

To which the White Queen replies: "I daresay you haven't had much practice. … Why, sometimes I've believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast."

Reuters, citing "government and industry sources," said the bureau's interim director, White House budget chief Mick Mulvaney, has taken us through the looking glass by deciding not to issue subpoenas or seek sworn testimony from Equifax execs.

The CFPB also "has shelved plans for on-the-ground tests of how Equifax protects data," Reuters said.

The agency declined to comment directly on the report. It said in a statement that "the bureau is looking into Equifax's data breach and response. Reports to the contrary are incorrect."

But consumer advocates wasted no time in ringing alarm bells about what would be only the latest in a series of recent moves by Mulvaney to cripple the CFPB's regulatory role over the financial services industry.

Christine Hines, legislative director for the National Assn. of Consumer Advocates, told me Monday's news was "yet another recent tragic case of the agency going the wrong way on consumer financial protection."

Yana Miles, senior legislative counsel for the Center for Responsible Lending, said Mulvaney "is finding new ways to sabotage the consumer bureau."

"The administration should recognize the severe harm Mulvaney is doing to the public and nominate a director who has people's interest at heart," she said.

Read more at:

Why you need to check if your child has a credit report

I say this time and time again, and I gan't stress this enough - you need to defend against identity theft not only for yourself, but for your children as well.

NEW YORK (AP) — They might not be old enough to swipe a credit card or take out a loan, but you still need to keep an eye on your little one’s credit.

Kids can be victims of identity theft, too, and it often goes unnoticed by parents for years. Typically, a youngster doesn’t find out something is wrong with their credit until they grow up and get rejected for a student loan or isn’t able to get a credit card. That’s why experts say more parents should monitor their child’s credit to fix issues early.

“By the time the kid finds out, their credit has already been massacred,” says Adam Levin, founder of identity theft recovery service IDT911

“By the time the kid finds out, their credit has already been massacred,” says Adam Levin, founder of identity theft recovery service IDT911 and author of “Swiped: How to Protect Yourself in a World Full of Scammers, Phishers, and Identity Thieves.”

All thieves need to obtain a fraudulent credit card or other loan is a child’s Social Security number, says Eva Velasquez, president and CEO of The Identity Theft Resource Center , a non-profit that helps identity theft victims. Often, thieves will use a different name and birthday when opening the accounts, she says.

Crooks like to target children because they know they can get away with it longer and open several accounts.

“It’s very lucrative,” says Velasquez.


Putting a number on just how many minors are identity theft victims is tough, since experts say many of the crimes are unreported or not known about until years later. The Federal Trade Commission says of the more than 410,000 identity theft complaints made last year, about 5 percent were for those 19 and under , the same rate as in 2014.

See the full article at:

Daniel Tam interviewed by Local 10 ABC News Consumer Reporter Christina Vazquez

When a Local 10 News viewer spotted a letter containing consumer protection tips on social media he brought it to the "Call Christina" team for a fact check.

Local 10 News enlisted the advice of consumer protection attorney Daniel Tam of Tam Law Group.

"That letter was clearly written before the dot-com boom and doesn't take into account the speed of information in the digital age," Tam said. "You are just as likely to get your identity stolen from someone sitting in front of a computer in Russia or China as you are here in the U.S. Think about the ways we have our personal information stolen without losing our wallets -- data breaches, skimmers, hospital admission forms, license applications. Medical facilities are a hotbed. Two of Miami-Dade's largest employers, Baptist Health and the University of Miami, were targets of data breaches in recent years."


See full article here:


Sued by Dyck-O'Neal?

We represent clients who are being sued by Dyck-O'Neal for deficiency claims. Dyck O'Neal has recently increased their collection efforts to pursue former property owners for deficiency judgment claims following foreclosure.

Take Immediate Action

It is very important that you take immediate action if you have received a collection letter or lawsuit from Dyck-O'Neal seeking to recover a deficiency judgment against you. If you have assets or income that prevent you from discharging the deficiency debt in bankruptcy, retaining counsel to defend you against Dyck ONeal may be your best option. If a deficiency judgment in entered against you, they may be able to seize your bank accounts, cars, boats, motorcycles, real estate and other personal property. They may also be able to seize your tax refunds and garnish your wages.

Deficiency Judgment Cases

You may be stunned to learn that even years after a foreclosure case is over, you can still be pursued for additional money owed on your mortgage loan even after the property was sold at foreclosure auction. Many people do not realize that the lender not only has the right to force the property to be sold at auction, but they can also pursue the borrower for the remaining balance owed on the loan (this is called the "deficiency").

Specifically, lenders can pursue the borrower for a deficiency judgment, which is the difference between the total balance owed to the lender minus the fair market value of the property as of the date of the foreclosure auction. Some lenders sell these deficiency claims to debt collectors such as Dyck O'Neal who then pursue the borrower for the deficiency amount.

We have received many phone calls in the last several weeks from former property owners who are now being pursued by Dyck O'Neal for deficiency judgment claims. Some of these callers have received collection letters. Others have been served with lawsuits recently filed by Dyck O'Neal in counties across the State of Florida.

There may be legal defenses available against a deficiency claim by Dyck O'Neal potentially including statute of limitations, improper notice, improper service issues in the underlying foreclosure, offsets for double recovery (i.e. mortgage insurance or risk-loss share agreements), and other procedural defenses. It may also be possible to challenge the amount of the deficiency claim.

In cases where there are no strong legal defenses, we may be able to settle the deficiency claim for a discounted amount, potentially saving our clients tens of thousands of dollars or more.

If you have received a collection letter from Dyck O'Neal, or if you have been served with a lawsuit filed by Dyck O'Neal seeking to recover a deficiency judgment, it is important that you take immediate action.

In a Subprime Bubble for Used Cars, Borrowers Pay Sky-High Rates

Rodney Durham stopped working in 1991, declared bankruptcy and lives on Social Security. Nonetheless, Wells Fargo lent him $15,197 to buy a used Mitsubishi sedan.

“I am not sure how I got the loan,” Mr. Durham, age 60, said.

Mr. Durham’s application said that he made $35,000 as a technician at Lourdes Hospital in Binghamton, N.Y., according to a copy of the loan document. But he says he told the dealer he hadn’t worked at the hospital for more than three decades. Now, after months of Wells Fargo pressing him over missed payments, the bank has repossessed his car.

This is the face of the new subprime boom. Mr. Durham is one of millions of Americans with shoddy credit who are easily obtainingauto loans from used-car dealers, including some who fabricate or ignore borrowers’ abilities to repay. The loans often come with terms that take advantage of the most desperate, least financially sophisticated customers. The surge in lending and the lack of caution resemble the frenzied subprime mortgage market before its implosion set off the 2008 financial crisis.

Read more at the New York Times

Dealing With Debt Collectors

If you’ve ever been dunned by a debt collector, you’re not alone: Roughly one in seven American adults is being pursued by a collector, for amounts averaging about $1,500.

That’s according to a report from the Center for Responsible Lending, a nonprofit research group.

Complicating the situation is that debt collection has become a larger, more complex industry. If you have trouble paying a personal debt — whether it’s a credit card balance, a student loan, a utility bill or a medical bill — and you are deemed to be in default, your account is likely to be handled eventually by someone other than the original creditor. Banks, hospitals, utilities and other businesses often sell debts at a steep discount to third-party buyers, who try to collect the payment themselves or hire outside firms to do so; often, the same debt is resold multiple times, and sometimes debts are packaged and sold in bulk.

Along the way, details of the original debt may be lost or become outdated, meaning that collectors may try to demand payment of debts that have already been settled or belong to someone else. It’s unclear exactly what proportion of consumers is wrongly pursued, said Leslie Parrish, deputy director of research with the Center for Responsible Lending and a co-author of the report. But the report notes that as little as 6 percent of debts purchased by the largest debt-buying firms in 2009 came with any sort of documentation.

“What people don’t know is that their debt can be sold to a debt buyer, who may sell it to another, and another,” said Ms. Parrish.

It’s usually best to contact creditors yourself if you run into financial difficulties, to try to work out payment arrangements and avoid having the debt sent to collection. But you do have certain rights when dealing with a debt collector, under a federal law called the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act.

Read more at: