The federal Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) regulates debt collectors. The FDCPA applies to every state, and it protects consumers from unfair and deceptive debt collection practices. The FDCPA also prohibits debt collectors from contacting you at certain times and places. So, if you live in Virginia, remember that the FDCPA's protections apply to you.
Also, under Virginia law, it's illegal for debt collectors to send documents simulating legal process.
The FDCPA protects consumers who owe money to merchants, credit card companies, or others for household debts. It prevents debt collection agencies from using intrusive or deceptive practices when collecting these debts. For instance, the FDCPA prohibits debt collectors from:
If a bill collector violates the FDCPA, you can bring a lawsuit seeking damages (see below).
Virginia has a criminal statute that prohibits anyone trying to collect a debt from imitating legal process to obtain payment.
Specifically, under the Virginia Code, any person who, for the purpose of collecting money, knowingly delivers, mails, sends, or otherwise uses or causes to be used any paper or writing simulating or intended to simulate any warrant, process, writ, notice of execution lien or notice of motion for judgment is guilty of a Class 4 misdemeanor and can be fined up to $250. (Va. Code Ann. § 18.2-213).
Because this is a criminal statute, the debtor can report a violation but can't directly sue the collector for breaking the law. (Va. Code Ann. § 18.2-11).
You can file a complaint with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) if you have an issue with a debt collector. After you submit a complaint, the CFPB will work to get you a response, typically within 15 days.
If a debt collector uses abusive or deceptive collection behavior that violates the federal FDCPA, you might also be able to file a lawsuit under that federal law. To get help initiating a lawsuit, talk to a debt relief lawyer.