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Federal law protects consumers against debt collectors

Debt collectors in Virginia and around the country have become increasingly aggressive in recent years, and daily calls demanding payment have become the norm for people who are struggling to make ends meet. The tactics used by third-party bill collectors often border on harassment, and they may also violate federal law. The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act was signed into law in 1977 by President Jimmy Carter, and it prohibits debt collectors from engaging in unfair, deceptive, or abusive practices to secure payment.

Under the provisions of the FDCPA, third-party bill collectors are not permitted to contact consumers at their places of work or at certain inconvenient times. They are also not allowed to tell a debtor's friends or family members about unpaid bills and must cease making contact when asked to do so in writing. They are also prohibited from using coercion or harassment to encourage debtors to pay.

Consumers who feel that debt collectors have violate the FDCPA can file complaints with the Federal Trade Commission or the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. Complaints can be filed on line or by telephone. Consumers in Virginia may also report bill collector harassment to the Office of the Attorney General.

Consumers who are dealing with daily harassment from debt collectors may also wish to consult with an attorney with experience in this area. This is because the FDCPA requires third-party collection companies to deal only with attorneys when consumers have retained them. Attorneys with debt relief experience could also explain that filing for bankruptcy petition generates what is known as an automatic stay. This is a court order that prohibits creditors or bill collectors from taking any further action to collect unpaid debts. An automatic stay puts an immediate end to daily phone calls and other harassment, and it also stops wage garnishments, asset seizures and debt collection lawsuits.

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