Let’s be perfectly clear about this:
In New York State, You Cannot Go To Jail Just Because You Have An Overdue Debt – Period.
Nevertheless, debt collectors are increasingly pretending to be law enforcement and they are calling and emailing people about overdue debts and threatening arrest. Even though you can’t go to jail for this reason, many of my clients are getting fake “Arrest Warrants” from phony “law enforcement officials” demanding payment of debts. Here is a sample from an email one of my clients recently received:
Just last November, the federal prosecutor in Manhattan indicted seven debt collectors in Georgia with impersonating a police officer. The prosecutor, Preet Bharra, described how horrible this is:
“In one case, a defendant told a victim that she had just 15 minutes to decide whether to make a payment on her spouse’s debt, and if she elected not to, a warrant for his arrest would be issued immediately.
In another case, one of the defendants arrested today used a false name and identified herself as “Chief Investigator Sharon Wright.” That defendant told a victim that she was investigating a criminal complaint against the victim for an outstanding payday loan. At one point, the victim asked for customer service, and the defendant replied, “Customer service? Ma’am you’re on the way to jail.” When the victim pleaded that she was eight months pregnant and did not want to go to jail, the defendant replied, “I wouldn’t care if you were nine months pregnant. I have a job to do here.”
There has been a 1,350% increase in complaints about debt collectors pretending to be law enforcement according to the Colorado Attorney General.
FIRST: If you are a client of Charles Juntikka & Associates, you should tell anyone collecting on a debt – including anyone saying they are from “law enforcement” – that they must talk to your attorney, and give them our number: 212.315.3755. Tell them you have been instructed by your attorney NOT to speak to them and that they must speak with your attorney on the matter.
SECOND: If you are not represented by our law firm, New York State law gives you strong protections against harassment from debt collectors. If someone calls you pretending to be from law enforcement and demands that you pay a debt, you should note the following:
ONE: DEMAND (1) THEIR NAME (2) PHONE NUMBER (3) NAME OF THEIR ORGANIZATION and (4) WRITTEN VERIFICATION OF THE DEBT.
TWO: ONCE YOU REQUEST WRITTEN VERIFICATION, A DEBT COLLECTOR MAY NOT CONTACT YOU AGAIN UNLESS THEY SEND YOU A WRITTEN VERIFICATION OF THE DEBT
THREE: REMEMBER – IN NEW YORK STATE YOU CANNOT GO TO JAIL JUST BECAUSE YOU HAVE AN OVERDUE DEBT- PERIOD.
For more specifics on exactly how to use New York State law to protect yourself from creditor harassment, you should look at New York City’s Debt Collection Guide. You can access this information by following the link below. Be sure to carefully read pages 4 and 5: http://www.nyc.gov/html/dca/downloads/pdf/Debt.pdf.
And as always, if you know someone who is struggling with overdue debts, please have them call us for a bankruptcy consultation.