Consumer - Debt Collection

The federal Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) requires that debt collectors treat you fairly and prohibits certain methods of debt collection. Under the FDCPA, a debt collector is someone who regularly collects debts owed to others. This includes collection agencies, lawyers who collect debts on a regular basis, and companies that buy delinquent debts and then try to collect them.  Please keep in mind that the FDCPA relates to third-party debt collectors who attempt to collect debts owed to others.  In addition, the law does not erase any legitimate debt you owe.

More Information:

Fair Debt Collection Practices Act Summary

Where to File a Complaint

If you have a complaint about a debt collector or possible violation of the FDCPA, you may file a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) which is the federal agency that has primary regulatory and enforcement authority over provisions of the FDCPA. The FDCPA also provides for private rights of action.

File a complaint with the FTC

You also may file a complaint with our office if the debt collector is located in Virginia.

Scam Debt Collection Calls

Many Scammers pose as debt collectors and will use threats and scare tactics to get a target to “pay up” quickly. Some pose as national banks or government agencies such as the FBI and may threaten to repossess a house, issue an arrest warrant, or, in some cases, even physical violence. No legitimate debt collector would threaten such things, because they all run afoul of the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act rules

Therefore, consumers should arm themselves with this information:

  • Ask callers for identification before you provide any information over the telephone. Never pay money to someone you do not know.

  • If it is a fairly small amount, avoid the urge to just pay the “bill” to avoid harming your credit score.

  • Review your credit reports frequently to find inaccuracies and be aware of your current creditors and account balances.  You can get all of your credit reports for free once every 12 months at www.annualcreditreport.com (the ONLY official web site to use.  Others sites may have similar names or may claim to offer a free credit report, but may charge a membership fee in a credit monitoring or other service).

 

 

 

 

Consumer - Credit Report Security Freeze

What is a credit report security freeze?

A credit report security freeze generally allows a consumer to block access to his or her credit report by third parties (such as credit lenders or other companies) who are not exempted under law.

Who is eligible for a credit report freeze?

All Virginians have a right to obtain a freeze on their credit report from the individual credit reporting agencies. 

Why might I decide to place a freeze on my credit report?

Unlike many identity theft protection methods which are only effective after identity theft has occurred, credit report freezes can help protect consumers from identity theft before it happens. 

Credit report freezes are designed to prevent thieves from opening new accounts in the consumer’s name.  Businesses generally do not extend credit to an individual without first checking his or her credit report.  Since a freeze blocks third parties from accessing a consumer’s credit report, it makes it very difficult for a potential identity thief to fraudulently open a new account in your name. 

What are the downsides or limits of placing a freeze on my credit report?

Freezes may delay, interfere with, or prohibit the timely approval of new loans, credit, mortgages, government services or payments, insurance, rental housing, employment, investments, licenses, cellular phone service, utility service, digital signature, Internet credit card transactions, and extension of in-store credit. 
Since there may be a delay between the receipt of your request and the actual lift or removal, it is important to plan ahead to ensure that your credit report is accessible for purchases and other significant transactions.  

In addition, a freeze will not prevent a thief from fraudulently using your existing credit card or bank accounts.  Therefore, you should continue to regularly check your monthly bank account and credit card statements for signs of any suspicious activity.

If I decide to do so, how do I place a freeze on my credit report?

Send a written request via certified mail or by using another method authorized by the credit reporting agency.  The “Security Freeze” law does not specify what information the credit reporting agencies may require to place a freeze on your credit reports.  Thus, each credit reporting agency has its own procedures in place.  Check the individual agency’s website for specific instructions on how to obtain a freeze. Equifax   Experian  TransUnion

Do I have to contact all 3 major credit reporting agencies (Equifax, Experian, TransUnion) or just one?

You must contact each credit reporting agency with which you wish to place a freeze. 

How do I temporarily lift the freeze once it is placed on my credit report?

A temporary lift allows the credit reporting agency to release your credit report to a specified party (specific third party lift) or to all third parties with a permissible purpose for a specified period of time (global lift).

To obtain a temporary lift, you must contact the credit reporting agency with which you placed the freeze and provide proper identification and the unique personal identification number (PIN) or password assigned to you.   You also must indicate the amount of time that you would like the freeze to be lifted or the specific party that can access the report.  Credit reporting agencies generally are required to be able to lift a freeze within 15 minutes of their receipt of an electronic request.

How do I permanently remove the freeze once it is placed on my credit report?

You must contact each credit reporting agency with which you placed the freeze by written request or other authorized method.  You will need your PIN or password when placing the request.  It may take up to 3 days to remove the freeze.

How much does it cost to place, lift, or remove a freeze on my credit report?

If you are a victim of identity theft, the freeze may be placed, lifted, or removed for free. 

If you are not a victim of identity theft, credit reporting agencies are permitted by statute to charge you a fee to place the security freeze.  The “Security Freeze” law does not authorize credit reporting agencies to charge fees for temporary lifts or removals of security freezes.

Can I still access my credit report even though there is a freeze?

You may still get your free annual credit report or purchase a copy of your report or score.  Placing the freeze does not affect your ability to obtain the report and it does not affect your credit score.  Obtaining the free annual report is one way to find out if you have become the victim of identity theft.  You can obtain your free annual report by going to: https://www.annualcreditreport.com.

Will my credit report ever be provided to another party even though I have a credit freeze? 

Yes, there are certain exceptions provided under law.  These include: 

  • Companies with which you have an existing account (e.g., your mortgage, credit card, or cell phone company, or their collection agencies)

  • Any person or entity using the report with your permission to extend credit

  • State or local agencies, law enforcement agencies, trial courts, or private collection agencies acting under a court order, warrant, or subpoena

  • Child support agencies

  • The Commonwealth when investigating fraud, collecting delinquent taxes or unpaid court orders, or performing other statutory responsibilities

  • Pre or post screening under the Fair Credit Reporting Act

  • Any person or entity monitoring your credit file with your permission

  • Any person or entity providing you a copy of the report upon your request

  • Any person or entity using the information to set or adjust a rate, adjust a claim, or underwrite for insurance purposes

  • Any employer in connection with any application for employment

More Information:

Virginia Code §§ 59.1-444.1 and 59.1-444.2
Annual Credit Report.com
Fair Credit Reporting Act

 

 

 

 

 

Consumer Assistance - Where to File Complaints

Business operating in Virginia?

The Consumer Protection Section of the Office of the Attorney General of Virginia serves as the central clearinghouse for the receipt, evaluation, investigation, and referral of consumer complaints.  Consumer complaints against most businesses operating in Virginia may be filed with our office.  However, not all complaints fall within our jurisdiction.  Before filing a complaint with our office, please view the information provided on this page to determine the proper agency to assist you in the resolution of your complaint.  If you cannot find the subject of your complaint on this page, please try our Agency Locator under Other Complaint Topics – Agency Locator for further assistance in identifying the right agency to help you.

Once you have determined that the Office of the Attorney General of Virginia is the proper agency to assist you, you may complete a complaint form online or download one of our complaint forms.

Online Consumer Complaint Form

Consumer Complaint Form

Completed complaint forms may be sent to:

Office of the Attorney General of Virginia
Consumer Protection Section
202 North Ninth Street
Richmond, VA 23219
Fax:  (804) 225-4378

Our telephone counselors are available to assist you with consumer questions, including where to file your complaint.  You may call our Consumer Protection Hotline at (800) 552-9963 if calling from Virginia, or (804) 786-2042 if calling from the Richmond area or from outside Virginia.  Our business hours are 8:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., Monday through Friday.

Business operating outside of Virginia?

Your state attorney general or other local consumer protection office in the state where the company is based has the greatest chance of obtaining a satisfactory result against a company doing business outside of Virginia. To obtain contact information for other states attorneys general, visit the National Association of Attorneys General website.

Business versus Business Complaints

Complaints made by one business against another business, or which involve goods or services purchased for commercial use (as opposed to personal, family, or household purposes), generally are not resolved through complaints filed with government agencies.  Such complaints generally are resolved through the courts or various forms of alternative dispute resolution (ADR).  The Better Business Bureau (BBB) does accept some complaints made by one business against another business.  In some cases, forms of ADR, such as mediation or arbitration, are available through the BBB to help resolve the dispute.

Private Disputes Between Individuals

Complaints made by one individual against another individual (where no business is involved) concerning a private transaction, e.g., a purchase made through an Internet auction site, or in response to a "for sale by owner" advertisement in a newspaper, typically are resolved through the courts.  If you want to be represented by an attorney, but do not have a specific attorney in mind, you may contact one through the Virginia Lawyer Referral Service at (804) 775-0808 or toll-free inside Virginia at 1-800-552-7977 or by visiting: http://www.vsb.org/vlrs/.   In Virginia, where the amount in dispute is $5,000 or less, an aggrieved consumer may file an action in the Small Claims Court that is part of their jurisdiction's General District Court.  Neither party may be represented by an attorney in Small Claims Court.  Small Claims Court Procedures

Insurance company

The State Corporation Commission’s Bureau of Insurance (Bureau) regulates insurance companies and investigates insurance complaints. The Bureau’s web site contains information about the Bureau, instructions for filing a consumer complaint, and instructions for downloading consumer publications. Contact information for the Bureau is below:

Bureau of Insurance Website
Bureau of Insurance toll free in Virginia: 1-800-552-7945
Bureau’s Life & Health Consumer Services: (804) 371-9691
Bureau’s Property & Casualty Consumer Services: (804) 371-9185

Banks

Banks and other regulated financial institutions are exempt from the Virginia Consumer Protection Act, which this office enforces.  The Bureau of Financial Institutions (BFI) is a division within the Virginia State Corporation Commission. The BFI has jurisdiction over Virginia state-chartered financial institutions and certain out-of-state entities that have been granted authority to do business in the Commonwealth.

It is important to remember that the BFI does not act as the complainant's attorney. It also does not have the power to adjudicate complaints. If a dispute turns on facts that do not involve a supervised entity's violation of a specific law or regulation (such as a matter concerning internal policies or guidelines) the BFI will advise the complainant about other ways to pursue the complaint, such as through consulting a private attorney and/or initiating a court proceeding.

Bureau of Financial Institutions Website

The BFI does not have the authority to resolve complaints involving entities that are not under Virginia jurisdiction. Some institutions are regulated by federal government agencies. For example:

Commercial banks having the word "National" or using the title "N.A." (national association) in their title, are organized under and subject to federal law. Requests for information or complaints concerning these national banks should be directed to:

 

Office of the Comptroller of the Currency

1-800-613-6743 (nationwide toll free number)

Savings banks and savings and loan associations having the word "Federal" in their name or which uses the initials "FSB" (federal savings bank), "FSA" (federal savings association), "FA" (federal association) or "FSLA" (federal savings and loan association) are regulated by the Office of Thrift Supervision, a federal agency. Inquiries or complaints should be directed
to: Office of Thrift Supervision
1-800-842-6929 (nationwide toll free number)

Federally regulated credit unions are similarly identified by the word "federal" in their name. Inquiries and complaints concerning federal credit unions should be directed 
to: 
National Credit Union Admin. (703) 518-6300

You may also file a complaint with:

Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB)

(855) 411-CFPB (2372)

** The CFPB is a federal agency that answers questions and handles complaints about consumer financial products or services. If you are having an issue with a credit card, mortgage, bank account or service, private student loan, consumer loan, credit reporting, money transfer, or debt collection, click here (http://www.consumerfinance.gov/complaint/) to submit a complaint to the CFPB or call toll-free at (855) 411-CFPB (2372).

Sweepstakes/Lottery/Fake Check Scams from a U.S. Company

You may file a complaint with our office.

You may also file a complaint with:
United States Postal Inspector's Office
Federal Trade Commission

(Although the FTC cannot resolve individual disputes, the information you provide may help indicate a pattern of possible law violations requiring action by the FTC or other law enforcement agency.)

Sweepstakes/Lottery/Fake Check Scams from a Canadian company

Complaints about Canadian sweepstakes and lotteries may be filed with the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre.

Charity

The Office of Charitable and Regulatory Programs (OCRP) within the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, is responsible for the administration of the Virginia Solicitation of Contributions Law.

The law requires any organization soliciting in Virginia to file with OCRP. Registration does not imply endorsement of a public solicitation for contributions. Before contributing it is always advisable to determine if the group has filed with OCRP and to review financial information on the organization to determine how they intend to spend your contribution.

You may contact OCRP online at www.vdacs.virginia.gov or by calling (804) 786-1343.

Call to number on National Do Not Call Registry.

If you have registered for the National Do Not Call Registry administered by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), please note that it will take 31 days from the date of registration before telemarketers subject to the Registry must stop calling you. If you receive a telemarketing call 31 days after you register, you may file a complaint. Complaints regarding telemarketing calls made to consumers who registered for the National Do Not Call Registry can be filed with the FTC.

Complaints filed online with the FTC are routinely reviewed by law enforcement agencies to determine whether a pattern or practice of violations of the National Do Not Call Registry is occurring. The National Do Not Call Registry can be enforced by the FTC, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), and the Virginia Attorney General’s Office among other governmental entities.

Call from company you asked not to call you and other telemarketing complaints not involving the National Do Not Call Registry.

If you have requested to be placed on a company's own "Do Not Call" list and that company calls you again, you may file a complaint with our office.

Local or long distance telephone service provider

The State Corporation Commission’s Division of Communications (Division) regulates local and long distance (intra-state) telecommunications service provided within Virginia. The Division also investigates consumer complaints about telecommunications service. Information about the Division, as well as instructions for downloading the Division’s consumer complaint form and filing complaints is available online.

The Division does not regulate interstate long distance service or resellers of long distance service. Complaints about interstate service and resellers should be addressed to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Consumer & Governmental Affairs Bureau.

If you are not a Virginia resident, you should file your complaint with your state utility commission, which regulates utility companies doing business in your state. Locate your state utility commission at the National Association of Regulatory Commissioners.

Cellular/Wireless Phone Service

Although the State Corporation Commission does not regulate wireless telephone providers, as a service to Virginia's wireless consumers, its Division of Communications will work with the following wireless providers to try to resolve wireless complaints: Alltel Wireless, Appalachian Wireless, Cingular Wireless, Ntelos Wireless, Sprint Nextel, T-Mobile, US Cellular Corporation, and Verizon Wireless.  Complaints can be filed with the SCC Division of Communications.

If you are not a Virginia resident, you should file your complaint with your state utility commission, which regulates utility companies doing business in your state. Locate your state utility commission at the National Association of Regulatory Commissioners.

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) regulates and oversees cellular/wireless phones and pagers and investigates such consumer complaints. For complaints about wireless service from other providers, you can file your complaint by writing, calling or e-mailing the FCC's Consumer & Governmental Affairs Bureau.

Collection Agencies

Complaints against collection agencies that collect debts owed to others should be filed with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB).  The CFPB is a federal agency that answers questions and handles complaints about consumer financial products or services. If you are having an issue with a credit card, mortgage, bank account or service, private student loan, consumer loan, credit reporting, money transfer, or debt collection, click here (http://www.consumerfinance.gov/complaint/) to submit a complaint to the CFPB or call toll-free at (855) 411-CFPB (2372).

Price Gouging

The Virginia Post-Disaster Anti-Price Gouging Act is activated when the governor or the president declares a state of emergency covering parts of Virginia.   The act prohibits a "supplier" from charging unconscionable prices for "necessary goods and services" within the affected area during the thirty (30) day period following the declared state of emergency.   The term "necessary goods and services" includes goods or services for which demand does, or is likely to, increase as a result of the disaster.  Examples include, but are not limited to, water, ice, food, generators, batteries, home repair services, tree removal services, and motor fuels.  The basic test for determining if a price is unconscionable is whether the post-disaster price charged by the "supplier" grossly exceeds the price charged for the same or similar goods or services either by the same supplier, or within the same trade area, during the ten (10) days immediately prior to the disaster. Complaints relating to sales of "necessary goods and services" other than motor fuels should be filed with the Office of the Attorney General.    Here is the form:

Price Gouging Complaint Form

Complaints relating to sales of motor fuels should be filed with the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, Office of Weights and Measures.   Here is the form:

Motor Fuels Price Gouging Complaint Form

Electric, gas or water company

The State Corporation Commission’s Division of Energy Regulation (Division) regulates electric, gas and water utility companies and responds to utility complaints. The Division’s web site contains information about the Division, as well as consumer information. The Division can also be reached by calling:  Toll free in VA: 1-800-552-7945 OR (804) 371-9611.

The Division does not regulate municipal utilities. For complaints about municipal utilities, you should contact your local government.

Propane Gas

If you have a complaint about bottled or tank propane gas, you may file a complaint with our office.

Landlord/Tenant

Please view our general information regarding residential landlord-tenant issues.

Timeshare or Timeshare Reseller

The Common Interest Community Board at the Department of Professional and Occupational Regulation (DPOR) registers time-share projects. DPOR’s Regulatory Programs and Compliance Section receives all complaints to determine the agency’s authority to investigate.

Lemon Law

Please view our Lemon Law page for information regarding where to file complaints.

Towing

The Consumer Protection Section of the Office of the Attorney General of Virginia serves as the central clearinghouse for the receipt, evaluation, investigation, and referral of consumer complaints. Consumer complaints against towing and recovery operators and tow truck drivers operating in Virginia may be filed with our office. However, not all towing complaints fall within our jurisdiction.  For example, complaints alleging violations of local ordinances should be filed with the appropriate local office.  The Department of Criminal Justice Services is responsible for the registration of tow truck drivers operating in Virginia.  Inquiries concerning whether a particular driver is registered should be directed to that Department.

Once you have determined that the Office of the Attorney General of Virginia is the proper agency to assist you, you may download our towing complaint form.

Towing Complaint Form

Completed complaint forms may be sent to:

Office of the Attorney General of Virginia
Consumer Protection Section
202 North Ninth Street
Richmond, VA 23219
Fax: (804) 225-4378

Our telephone counselors are available to assist you with consumer questions, including where to file your complaint. You may call our Consumer Protection Hotline at (800) 552-9963 if calling from Virginia, or (804) 786-2042 if calling from the Richmond area or from outside Virginia. Our business hours are 8:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., Monday through Friday.

Health Spas, Travel Clubs, Membership Campgrounds, Credit Services Businesses, Extended Service Contracts or Legal Services Contracts

These businesses are regulated by the Office of Charitable and Regulatory Programs (OCRP) within the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services. Complaints regarding these businesses should be filed with OCRP, 102 Governor Street, Richmond, VA 23219. Telephone inquiries regarding these businesses may be made as follows:

Health Spas, call (804)225-4601;
Travel Clubs, call (804) 786-1281;
Membership Campgrounds, Extended Service Contracts, or Legal Services Contracts, call (804) 786-0321;
Credit Services Businesses, call (804) 371-0392.

Other Complaint Topics - Agency Locator

If you cannot find the subject of your complaint on this page, please try our Agency Locator for further assistance in identifying the proper agency to help you in the resolution of your complaint.