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July 17th, 2010
05:26 AM ET

Not Paying Debts Could Land You Behind Bars?

Yes, it’s true! If you have unpaid debts floating out in collectionville beware. Prior to the mid 19th century debtors' prisons were a common way to deal with unpaid debt. Currently, the practice of giving prison sentences for unpaid debts has been mostly eliminated, with a few exceptions. In Minnesota, judges have issued arrest warrants for people who owe as little as $85, which is a fraction of the cost it would take to house the inmate overnight. Debtors targeted for arrest owed a median of $3,512 in 2009, up from $2,201 five years ago. A judge sentenced a Kenney, Ill., man "to indefinite incarceration" until he came up with $300 toward a lumber yard debt, but it appears as though that those jailed for debts may be the least able to pay.

What can you to make sure that you’re protected and you’re rights are not violated?
Know the law. I’ve read several stories of people who are fighting back, simple by being armed with the law and in particular the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, which covers personal, family, and household debts, including money you owe on a personal credit card account, an auto loan, a medical bill, and your mortgage.

The way that most people are ending up behind bar is ignoring a court summons. Collection agencies are feeling the pinch of the economy as well as most business across America, so in turn they are playing hard ball. If they are unsuccessful reaching you by telephone to attempt to settle the matter, they have the option to file suit against you. Once the suit is filed the court will request your appearance, but if you neglect to attend, a warrant may be issued for your arrest. In many cases people have remained behind bars until bail was made, which is often the amount they owed the collection company.

It’s more important now than ever to know your rights. Visit the Federal Trade Commissions (FTC) website http://www.ftc.gov/bcp/edu/pubs/consumer/credit/cre18.shtm to get additional information to make sure you’re equipped to avoid being placed in the slammer for your unpaid debt.

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