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Can you go to jail for not paying a debt?

Debt is an unfortunate part of life for many people in the United States. While the average household debt for the average American is $5,000, the median debt is actually closer to $16,000. 

A big concern for many people with debt is the threat of going to jail. Some people genuinely receive phone calls from debt collectors where the caller threatens the debtor with jail time. However, people can rest easy. This is an illegal tactic, and people cannot go to jail in South Carolina for unsecured debts.

Most types of debt do not result in jail time

You cannot go to jail for falling behind on student loan payments or credit card bills. There are some types of debts you can go to jail for, such as failing to make child support payments. Another possibility of a person going to jail involves failing to pay taxes. However, if you have a $10,000 credit card balance you have trouble paying off, then you do not have to worry about jail and should look at filing for bankruptcy as a solution. 

Where did this myth come from?

Similarly to most myths, the belief people will go to jail for not paying off debts is slightly based on reality. There was a time in American history where debtors would go to jail for unpaid debts. "Debtor's prisons" was the term for these jails, and they were around until the mid-1800s. You do not have anything to worry about these days because the Supreme Court made it illegal to send people to jail for civil debts. 

Why do debt collectors threaten people with jail time?

Occasionally, a company will sell off a person's debt to a debt collection agency, and people who work for these companies will occasionally engage in illegal activities to get people to pay. Anyone who finds themselves a victim of this behavior should consult with an attorney immediately. 

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