For most people, the thought of going to jail is a nightmare. Some debt collection agencies prey on that fear this and will use threats of imprisonment as a primary means to extract payment of a debt. It can be an effective threat; some people will go to any lengths and offer to pay any amount to avoid the embarrassment and humiliation of going to jail.
While it is possible to be jailed for refusal to pay certain kinds of debt – usually for unpaid taxes or child support – this sentence can be levied only via the legal system. A debt collector cannot legally send you to prison; he or she is not a representative of the local, state or federal government and has no legal powers. Claiming otherwise is expressly forbidden by the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act.
Unfortunately, this sort of thing does still happen, as some debt collection agencies have found a way to use the threat of law enforcement to help them collect debts. It is not unknown for people who owe even small amounts of money to find themselves threatened with arrest. Still, do not disregard any court orders you might receive in the mail; while unscrupulous debt collectors may falsify such documents, they could be legitimate and you could face serious consequences for ignoring them. If a debt collector has threatened you with jail time for refusal to pay a debt, he or she may be lying to try and coerce you into paying.
If a debt collection agency is threatening you with jail time, or if you've received a letter indicating that you could go to jail for an unpaid debt, don't take any chances – contact a debt collection lawyer immediately. If you live in northern Illinois, our debt collection attorneys in Chicago can help. Call us today.