Jason S. Miyares
Attorney General of Virginia

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. 

Fair Debt Collection Practices Act - Summary

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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 may also file a complaint with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB).

File a complaint with the CFPB


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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).