Rising consumer debt and poor employment numbers have led to an increase in illegal debt collection in North Carolina. The state currently has strict licensing codes when it comes to debt collection, but the haste of many to create a business has led to a rampant skirting of legal requirements to establish an agency. The result has been a growing number of unlicensed debt collection agencies harassing lower-income individuals throughout the state. The trend is especially worrisome because of the strong state laws protecting consumers against such activity. Notably, North Carolina boasts a reputation of possessing stronger consumer protection laws than the Federal Fair Debt Collection Practices Act. "We have seen a substantial increase in the amount of unlicensed collection agencies in the past year and a half. Many of these collection agencies are brand-new, but some have been getting away with it for years," said Michael A. Dye, a consumer protection attorney in Wake County, North Carolina. These illegal companies can have potentially damaging and unjustified effects on a person's consumer credit report. According to WRAL-TV, the average North Carolina resident possesses $6,995 in credit card debt and nearly $16,000 in car loans.