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Can a creditor send me to jail if I don’t pay a payday loan or a credit card debt?


We often get calls from people who have been harassed and threatened by collectors.  Our clients have told us stories about these collection agents who sometimes pose as sheriffs or other law enforcement officers and threaten to throw them in jail if they do not pay the debt in full by a certain time.  Sometimes, these collectors will even call and threaten people at work or at a relative’s house.  If you get a call like this, you do not have to be afraid if you know your rights!

According to this ABC news story, debt collectors are the number one subject of consumer complaints that the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) receives.  The FTC enforces certain guidelines put in place by the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) by which debt collectors must abide.  Here’s a list of just a few of them.

Debt collectors MAY NOT:

· use obscene or profane language.

· repeatedly use the phone to annoy someone.

· falsely claim that they are attorneys or government representatives.

· falsely claim that you have committed a crime.

· claim that you will be arrested if you don’t pay your debt

· claim that they’ll seize, garnish, attach, or sell your property or wages unless they are permitted by law to take the action and intend to do so; or

· claim that legal action will be taken against you, if doing so would be illegal or if they don’t intend to take the action.


A debt collector may take you to court to sue you to collect a debt you owe.  If they win a judgment against you, your wages could be garnished or your bank account could be levied.  However, they must do this by way of a court order and you should receive a summons for that court date.  If you have not received a summons, the debt collector may be delivering an empty threat, which is in violation of the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act.  Also keep in mind, a creditor cannot send you to jail over an unpaid cash advance or credit card bill.

First of all, if you have already filed for bankruptcy and listed a company that is calling you, tell them you have filed bankruptcy and they must stop collecting from you!  They are violating the Automatic Stay and are not allowed to contact you to collect the debt you owe them.

Otherwise, if you receive collection calls that violate the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, you should tell the creditor to stop calling and then immediately contact the FTC to file a complaint against that company.  If you owe the debt, you would need to make arrangements to pay the debt, or talk with an attorney about bankruptcy options. But in the meantime, you don’t have to put up with harassing phone calls.

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