“Pay Up or Prison Awaits!”: A False and Sometimes Costly Promise


Debt collectors want their money and often they become quite aggressive in their efforts to collect.  One tactic that is employed is the threat of criminal prosecution if the debtor does not make payment.  But…..can the debtor be criminally prosecuted for failure to pay a debt?  Answer:  In a VAST majority of situations, the answer is a resounding NO!  There are a few very, limited exceptions to this general rule and they are so limited it is not even worth grousing about them here.

So what do you do if the debt collector threatens to have you arrested, prosecuted, jailed, or otherwise handled criminally for failing to pay the debt?

  1. Make note of the date and time of the statement as well as the name of the individual who made the statement and the company for whom he or she works.  Also jot down notes regarding the statements made by the individual.
  2. Ask the individual to provide a reference to the law, statute, Code, or other provision that supports the assertion you can be criminally prosecuted for failure to pay the debt.
  3. If the debt collector left a voicemail or message DO NOT erase the message.  Save the message and possibly even back it up as it could be key evidence for you.
  4. Compile any and all written (fax, mail, e-mail, etc.) correspondence you have received from the debt collector.
  5. Contact an experienced debt collection defense attorney to assess the situation.

A debt collector who threatens action that he either cannot take or does not intend to take has potentially violated state and federal law.  If properly established, such violations carry automatic monetary damages and possibly attorney fees.  And often there are other statements or actions by the debt collector that may violate the law which could mean additional damages for you and headache for the debt collector.

Take a few moments to learn how to handle debt collectors—knowledge is power.  Try not to be intimidated or overly concerned about hollow threats of jail as debtor’s prison is a relic of the distant past.  Instead check into your options which may put the debt collector in a box.

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1 Comment

  1. You also have to beware of the scam debt collectors. I kept getting calls from some payday lender claiming I owed them money and I was going to be arrested. I dared the guy to send the police and called him a jerk scammer and a liar and basically told him where to stick his threats. He finally stopped calling when I told him I’d reported him to the FBI and that if he called again I was suing him.

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