Hounded: Minnesotans in Debt

What to know: Avoiding warrants

  • Updated: March 17, 2011 - 4:41 PM
What to know: Avoiding warrants

Bill collectors can legally seek warrants to arrest people who don't respond to legal action over debts. But debtors can take steps to avoid arrest.

Carefully read documents from collectors. You may not recognize a creditor's name or the amount owed. Old debts often are sold to debt-buyer firms, which tack on interest and fees.

• If you get a summons and complaint, it means you are being sued and the case is going to court. A summons can be delivered by hand or by mail, and needn't be filed in court first.

Respond promptly to a summons, admitting or denying the debt and disclosing requested information. Watch for court hearings. If you ignore such legal matters, the collector can win a judgment by default and seek a warrant for your arrest.

• Debtors have some rights even if they owe money. For example, Minnesota law prevents collectors from obtaining judgments after six years.

• If you want professional advice, but can't afford a lawyer, ask the court clerk about volunteer attorneys who answer questions about collection cases.

Sources: National Consumer Law Center, Federal Trade Commission

  • about this series

  • This series examines the aftermath of a credit boom that left many people in financial trouble, facing a collections industry that uses aggressive methods to obtain payments.

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