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Can I be arrested for an unpaid debt?

A debt collector can’t threaten to or have you arrested for an unpaid debt. If you’re sued and you don’t comply with a court order, though, you could be arrested.

It’s a violation of the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) for a debt collector to have you arrested or claim that you’ll be arrested if you don’t pay a debt – this is harassment. However, they may file a lawsuit against you to collect the debt, and if the court orders you to appear or to provide certain information but you don’t comply, a judge may issue a warrant for your arrest.

In some cases, a judge may also issue a warrant if you don’t comply with a court-ordered installment plan. You should never ignore a court order.

What protections and rights do I have in dealing with debt collectors?

You have certain rights and protections when being contacted by a debt collector. If you’re being harassed or feeling overwhelmed by their communications, you can ask a debt collector to stop contacting you.

Keep in mind, though, that there’s certain information that legitimate debt collectors are required to provide to help you verify whether the debt is yours or if it’s a scam. Stopping communications also doesn’t mean the debt goes away, and depending on the circumstances and the collector, they can find other ways to collect, including filing a lawsuit against you.

How to find a lawyer to help with a debt

A lawyer with experience in consumer law or debt collection can help you understand your state or federal rights. Also, if you’re working with an attorney, all of your communications can go through them if you let the collector know.

There are a number of ways to find a reputable lawyer in your area, including going through a local referral service or a state legal aid program if you’re unable to pay for legal support. Learn more about how to find a lawyer.

If you're having trouble with debt collection, you can submit a complaint with the CFPB.

Learn more about debt collection.