Some unscrupulous debt collectors will just say anything to get you to reach into your wallet. This includes threatening you with jail.
Yet in America, there are no such things as debtors prisons. There have been a few confusing news stories which might make it seem otherwise, but that’s just a simple fact. You cannot be sent to prison for failing to pay a bill.
Any debt collector who says otherwise is in violation of the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act. That means if they say they can have you sent to jail, you can sue them. You can often recover damages, benefit from injunctive remedies such as forcing the collector to stop calling, and may even recover garnished wages.
When people have gone to jail in conjunction with debts they have gone in specific situations:
- Ignoring an order to appear in court, which can result in a bench warrant.
- Failing to pay court debts that are tied to criminal cases, which can lead to a warrant for arrest.
- Being accused of loan or mortgage fraud, which is a criminal fraud case.
Debt collectors would not be involved in these transactions at any stage. You’d be dealing with law enforcement and officers of the court. If they are threatening to call in law enforcement to get you to pay the debt then they are probably lying to you.
If you know you undertook some sort of fraudulent behavior when taking out the loan or credit card then you might have cause for concern. For example, you technically could be accused of credit card fraud if you misreported your income on a credit card application. A lot of people “fudge” the numbers in the hopes of obtaining credit. But, again, that call would not come from a collection agent and they don’t have access to that initial application to begin with.
With most collectors, of course, your best bet is to send them a certified letter instructing them that they may only contact you via mail and that you are invoking your rights under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act. If the harassment has reached the point that you are playing “whack-a-mole” with your creditors, then it may be time to consider filing for bankruptcy.
Filing for bankruptcy halts all adverse action, including creditor phone calls and threats.
Need help? Reach out to our office to schedule a free consultation today.