SPRINGFIELD, Ill., Feb. 28, 2013 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Illinois Collectors Association (ICA) members today applaud the Federal Trade Commission's National Consumer Protection Week, March 3-9, 2013 and encourage consumers to visit AskDoctorDebt.org for free information to better understand debt collection and their rights. Many Illinois consumers are being contacted by third-party debt collectors to resolve duly owed financial obligations. According to the Federal Reserve, the total amount of consumer debt in the United States now exceeds $11.5 trillion. Whether a mortgage, medical bill, student loan, auto loan or credit card debt, the repayment of consumer and business credit is vital to the national, state and local economies. Based on a recent study by Ernst & Young, third-party debt collectors recovered $55 billion in 2010 on behalf of creditor, health care, government and other clients. This report includes details specific to our state. "Engaging third party debt collectors to recover these debts helps reduce the cost of goods and services, allows affordable credit to be available, reduces the need for future tax increases," ICA President Connie Matrisch said. "It's not only the non-profit and private sectors that benefit from debt collection. Federal, state, and local government also rely on the repayment of billions of taxpayer owed dollars in delinquencies including uncollected court fees, unpaid taxes, library fines, and traffic tickets." The non-profit ACA International Education Foundation created www.askdoctordebt.org as a free resource to help ensure consumers contacted about these debts know their rights and better navigate the often confusing world of personal finance. No registration or sharing of a consumer's personal information is required. Matrisch added that harassment, threats and other illegal activity are unacceptable and violators must be held accountable. ICA members are working with regulators, Congress and state leaders to ensure a balanced debt collection system that protects consumers and allows the legitimate collection of debt to function.