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Are Debt Collectors’ Threats About Sending You To Jail Credible?


Even though there are rules against harassment by creditors, collection agencies and debt collectors still often play on people’s fears in an effort to get them to make payments on debts, even if the borrowers’ budgets are already stretched so thin that they can only afford the barest necessities.  Sometimes they make it sound like you are just one billing cycle of non-payment away from getting thrown in debtors’ prison like in19th century England as described in the novels of Charles Dickens.  The reason that these tactics are so effective is that there is a grain of truth to them.  Yes, it is possible to get criminal charges because of non-payment of certain financial obligations, but your chances of getting a jail sentence for not being able to pay a credit card bill from years ago are much slimmer than the representative from the collection agency is making them sound.  If a debt collector is threatening to send you to jail, don’t panic; just contact a Philadelphia debt collection abuse lawyer.

The Unpaid Financial Obligations That Can Lead to Criminal Charges

Yes, you can get criminal charges for debt, but not just any debt.  The law assumes that people are free to make their own decisions about borrowing money, even if those decisions are risky.  Therefore, if you take on credit card debt, student loans, business loans, or home mortgages that you can’t pay back, the worst that can happen to you is financial ruin.  (Of course, plenty of people are faced with financially ruinous amounts of debt despite exercising the utmost caution with spending and borrowing and despite tireless efforts to find and keep gainful employment.  Regarding this problem, you should consult a consumer law attorney about your own financial situation, and you should encourage elected officials to enact greater protections for consumers.)  The debts you can go to jail for not paying are not loans you owe to banks or companies; they are financial obligations to the government itself.

It is possible to go to jail for unpaid taxes; this has been the fate even of some wealthy celebrities.  From a legal standpoint, this is the crime of tax fraud; the criminal charges are not just for not paying money you owe, but for making false statements on your tax return.  When people get federal prison sentences for tax fraud, it is usually for elaborate deceptions involving large sums; in some cases, these defendants have also been convicted of other financial crimes, such as money laundering.

The other financial obligation for which people sometimes get criminal charges is unpaid child support.  Failing to pay your court-ordered child support can get you charged with criminal contempt of court, which means disobeying a court order.  Of course, if you are unable to pay, you have the right to ask the court to reduce your obligations; you can even ask the court to modify your child support order retroactively, making some of your past-due child support obligations instantly disappear.

Contact an Attorney for Help

A Philadelphia debt collection abuse attorney can help you protect yourself from threats and harassment by debt collectors.  Contact Louis S. Schwartz at CONSUMERLAWPA.com to set up a free, confidential consultation.



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