When you feel trapped by the debts you’ve built over the years, the thought may arise: Can I escape my creditors? What if I move to a far corner of the earth and just wait for the legal time to pass and then my debts have just vanished?! Not often, but every now and then a question on this topic pops in my mailbox.
running from the debt collector might have been easy around 1900, but nowadays, in the digital era, it is very hard if not impossible.
But we all know a story of a guy who managed to do it, don’t we? I do, I have met people that ran away from their creditors and have seemingly escaped the endless payment requests.
I doubt they live a happy life. They have to look over their shoulders a lot, for the fact is that escaping from debts is getting harder every year the world becomes more digitalized.
With the ability to have a passport flagged, border crossing becomes a collection point for debts.
With the ability to trace your digital whereabouts bailiffs can almost see what turn you take in which street, so to speak.
In this digitalized world where systems are combined and countries have agreements, it is very hard to stay off the radar
you will be on passenger-lists
you will have an internet history
friends or family might share your location when a debt collecting agency will contact them
you have to deregister from your country and that will be hard without sharing future whereabouts
you need cash money, and whenever you use an ATM or credit card you will pop-up in the system
And there are plenty more leads for your creditors to follow you around the globe.
Suppose you move to a country where your daily living costs are so low you could save up money?
What if you do not try to escape but if you could just buy yourself some time and come up with a payment plan that works for you and your creditors? If you can come up with a plan on how to earn money abroad and minimize your daily living expenses you might be able to become debt-free and breathe again?
But starting over without some savings is pretty hard. And moving abroad will cost money. Things you kind of forget when dreaming of the big escape are:
that is there is already been a court case, you might not be allowed to travel
almost all debt collectors nowadays work internationally
if you made debts within the EU borders, they are collectible without a court ruling from the country you have fled to
debt collectors sell debts, and the new owner might dive into your case and start a procedure to find you and collect, if necessary through a court case
your debts will not just vanish, they will grow, costs made to collect it will be added up to it as will interest
debt collectors will gladly work with people who can’t pay but will be more aggressive in their handling of people who won’t pay
But more important:
you will need money to start a new life
you need a plane ticket and probably a visa plus extensions
you will most likely not be allowed to work because of your visa
one day your passport will expire
So what if you can stay ahead of those debts for x-amount of years?
(x = depending on the legal period your country has set for debts to be written off)
In some countries, debts to private people or businesses can be written off after a certain period of time (read “years”). This period may vary from 4-12 years. So what if you disappear for that amount of time?
there has been no court case (set) for collecting your debts
you have never made any payments to pay off that specific debt
you have not been in contact with the creditor about the debt in any way
your debts will be written off after that legally set period of time. It is a law, you can look it up and find out how many years this is in your country. Sometimes the period depends on the type of loan or institute you are in debt to. There are countries that have different time stamps for different loans and debts. There are also countries that have different rules for debts to the government like taxes, student loans, or even child support.
A lot of people thinking about escaping their debts feel inspired by this law. They think they can manage to disappear for that set period of time in the hope when they return the debt is gone. But unfortunately, the debt will still be there when you return. It will be larger and it will ruin every future possibility you have because it is written down on your credit score.
There are even countries that have a small print to these so-called statute-barred debts, that says that if the debt collector can prove he has tried to contact you, the debt still stands open for collection, even if you did not receive the notification. And so debts can stay open for many, many years.
And there you are, in a far corner of the earth, maybe even on a sunny white beach, ignoring the fact you ran away from problems that were your responsibility, and all those “happy days” there is this grey mist over everything you do, called fear, fear of being caught.
It is very difficult to explain in this article how debt collectors or bailiffs work since everyone will have a different time-stamp, workflow and in every country, there are different rules and laws they have to follow.
There is not a society in the world that approves of running away from debts
Fleeing from your debts has a stigma to it. And family and friends may condemn you for running away from responsibility. Also, the debt collectors and bailiffs are more generous and willing towards people that can’t pay rather than to those who won’t pay.
They will contact everyone that has ever been in contact with you to find out your whereabouts. So you live on in the lives of those you left behind.
Escaping debts has become more difficult because of connected bank systems, international agreements on debt collection, and registration obligations even for visitors and foreigners.
I know this story of a guy living in the Philippines. He ran away from debts: Child support and he owned money to the bank for his mortgage. The bailiff finally caught up with him. Since his home country and the country, he was currently living had agreements on collecting child support debts. The local sheriff came to collect, he could not pay, neither could his Filipino family, who is according to Filipino law the next in line to pay. So he was arrested, according to the laws of his current country. IN jail he could not renew his visa, so his problems became bigger and bigger.
And there is the story of the girl who ‘forgot’ to keep paying for her student loan and went backpacking in S.E. Asia. The moment her feet touched the ground in her home country the bill was presented to her. The loan, plus interest and costs made by the debt collectors over the years of her absence. She also had a credit card debt from buying a plane ticket that she ignored. And I think she doesn’t look back with too much pleasure on her years of debt avoidance and trying to escape
It may sound like a vagabondish thing to do: running away from your debts, but disappearing is really hard to accomplish
a few thoughts on what you really need to consider before packing an overnight bag:
How are you going to take care of yourself financially?
How will you erase all tracks that lead to you, also your tracks on the internet?
How to stay off the radar and out of the system?
Who are your creditors? You might have a flagged passport?
How to survive when the bailiff seizes your bank account??
and what to do when you need a passport renewal?
How to explain your disappearance to family and friends?
Are you sure they will not expose your new location when a bailiff or debt collector contacts them?
What will you do when you get ill?
These are just a few things to consider before riding into the sunset.
If you are going to take the risk and try to run away from reality:
Do contact the debt collectors or Bailiff after a few weeks or so
suggest a payment arrangement that fits your new situation
be subtle with information but do act cooperative
keep actively searching for a solution and do not become a debt avoider
do keep your end of the agreement
Most debt collectors and bailiffs are kinder to people who are cooperative and willing to work towards a solution. The fact that you have left the country will not work to your advantage. So keep that in mind.
Although you might not always be responsible for the debts you have to pay, at some point in your financial history, you were responsible for the decisions you’ve made. Whether that was buying a house, trusting your once so loved now ex with your credit card, or getting a car loan, you made the decision to do so, you took the risk. Therefore it is also your responsibility to face up to the debts and come to an arrangement to pay back what you agreed upon.
Jeanette, a Dutch female nomad, started to travel the world at the age of 17. Walker of beaches, shell searcher and iPhone photographer. Writer and owner of two websites
Currently, she lives in Mexico.
She is an emigration coach and works online.
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