Debt collectors can call you up and hunt you down and make you feel like a thug, but here in America they can’t throw you in jail for your unpaid bills. Or can they? A sneaky tactic called “body attachment” is a new twist on this ultimate form of creditors bullying, and people who have committed no more serious offense than mismanaging their finances find themselves thrown in jail with criminals. hardened.
The St. Louis Post-Expedition reports that St. Louis County debtors fall prey to payday lenders and the collection agencies they sell their debts to. These lenders and agencies then use the taxpayer-funded court system to screw up people who owe money.
Here’s how it works: The creditor goes to court and gets a judgment against the debtor. In many cases, this action only succeeds because the debtor never comes forward to defend himself, sometimes because he has been the victim of a “sewer service” and has never received the documents indicating to him. when to go to court.
(FOLLOWING: 50% interest and jail time for credit card debt?)
Once the creditor has obtained this judgment, he asks the judge for a “review”. In theory, this process aims to assess whether or not the indebted person has bank accounts or other assets that can be seized to pay off debts. The Post-shipment says creditors are exploiting this process, filing multiple requests for reviews that keep people coming back to court. And if they don’t appear in court, then the creditor asks for a “bodily seizure,” which forces the debtor to jail until the next hearing – or until he spits out a bond which is often the same amount as the debt, and is often remitted directly to creditors.
This way the creditor often gets the payment of the original debt along with all kinds of additional interest and penalties. A woman described in the article was in a rush for $ 1,250. His original debt? A payday loan of $ 425. Another woman was thrown in jail for a debt of $ 588.
Creditors say they have to use these methods to make sure people show up on their court dates, but not everyone is buying it. “Don’t the county police have better things to do?” Asks a lawyer from Legal Aid interviewed by the newspaper. In the neighbor Illinois, Governor Pat Quinn signed a law last month banning the use of email attachments in debt suits.
This law is a step in the right direction, but it is an exception. The frightening prospect of being jailed for triple-digit debt isn’t limited to Missouri. a investigation by the Star Tribune of Minneapolis-St. Paul discovered that a growing number of creditors have tricked judges into issuing arrest warrants on people who owe as little as $ 250.
For those in debt, the main lesson is to pay attention to any notices you receive regarding court appearances and make sure you respond and show up if necessary. Many people never show up to hearings against them, perhaps out of intimidation, but the effort is well worth the effort: those who do appear in court can often successfully litigate against the debt, since the burden of proof is on the creditor or the company bringing the action to prove that the person owes the amount sought and that the creditor has the right to collect the debt.