Do bookies, pushers & loan sharks really come after a debtor's family to pay debts?

I’ve seen this as a plot point in various TV dramas, but it always stuck me as somewhat odd that people who have absolutely nothing whatsoever to do with a gamblers or drug users debts would be threatened vs simply punishing or killing the debtor. If word got out that a bookmaker or loan shark would kill or hurt your family if you didn’t pony up who would ever do business with him again, given the risk to loved ones in addition to the risk you assume yourself ?

Does this happen routinely when people can’s pay debts to bookies, loan sharks & drug dealers or is it mainly a dramatic invention?

In Japan anyway, the loan sharks generally start by trying to shame you into paying your loans.

Major money lender Aiful just got smacked with a temporary shutdown of all their branches for violating a few different loaning laws, one of which involved having their people show up at the workplaces of customers and making it known to everyone that their co-worker was behind on their debts. They were also knocking on the doors of neighbors and asking if they could ‘encourage’ their neighbor to be more timely in their payments.

Another lender, Takefuji, got into hot water a couple of years back by ‘advising’ customers on how much money could be made selling various body parts, or how much their kids could expect to bring in through prostitution.

Now, these are two of the biggest corporations in the country, and their presidents are both on the Forbes top-10 list for Japan. If you were to look at smaller operators that work entirely outside the law, I’d expect even more extreme behavior.

(As a personal aside, I started feeling less sympathy for their customers when I realized that the biggest loan companies here were named Dick, Rake, Inhuman and I Fool You.)

I would WAG if a loan shark could get his money by such means he would

People doing business with loan sharks or illegal bookies aren’t exactly going to be Googling to see what their reputation is like. They do it through addiction or desperation, not as a considered financial decision.

In the UK at least, the position is (or at least was until the last year or so - I’m not sure if the law has changed yet) that gambling debts are NOT enforceable by law, and that they die with the bettor.

Of course, whether the boys at “Lucky” Luciano’s Turf and Track Accountants would agree with this view is entirely another matter…

If the debtor is in the hospital (or morgue) he’s not going to be pulling in much money to pay you back with.

How does this work? If I were to use a cheque to pay for a lottery ticket or place a bet in a betting shop, and then cancel the cheque or have it bounce, I wouldn’t be legally liable for the debt?

Maybe not but you’d be guilty of writing a bad check or fraud.

As for illegal bookies, I have a couple of stories to share. Many years ago, in New York, a relative of mine got in over his head with a sports bookie attached to the mob. He was allowed to pay off his debt by running his own little sports book and giving all of the profits to the bookie.

More recently, a very good friend of mine owed maybe $20k between three different bookies. He was able to negotiate paying them a fraction of what he owed as long as it was paid immediately. These guys weren’t leg breakers but they’d call you at home and at your place of work and generally make you uncomfortable. Most gambleaholics don’t want their employer, spouse or parents to know about it.

I think you’re mixing two different scenarios here. One is loansharking and one is drug dealing. Sure, some bad folks will have their fingers in both pies, but from what I understand, loansharks don’t do the whole leg breaking thing so much anymore. Scared and injured debtors go to the cops too often, and nobody wants that kind of heat. If it comes to the physical, you just disappear, but even that’s usually too much. More likely you’ll just be cut off by all of the sharks, forever, effectively cutting off your funding base for your gambling, or burglary or whatever you need a quick paperless loan for.

When the family thing comes up is I’ve heard that certain drug dealers will hold a member of your family until the deal goes off, in order to make sure that everyone cooperates, and nobody decides to pull out an Uzi instead of some cash.

I friend of mine who used to be a cop basically said the same thing. Most loan sharks will try to harass and intimidate you into paying but at the end of the day, they are running an illegal business and don’t want the heat that would come from breaking some legs.

The big advantage a loanshark has is that his customers don’t want to bring in the cops, they don’t want their families or their bank or their employer to learn just how screwed up their finances are.

But if some strange man comes up to Grandma and threatens her, she’s much more likely to go the cops.

The problem a loanshark has is that he has no legal way to enforce his debt. And a dead or hospitalized deadbeat isn’t going to be able to pay back the money.

Which is why you probably have to build credit with a shark like you do anywhere else. Borrow $100, pay back $200 next week, and go from there. Most of the people who would borrow $50,000 or such would be members of an organized crime syndicate, and then you can lean on their uppers for your money back, I’d think.

When it’s just gambling debts to a bookie, where you can’t cover your losses, then you usually end up working for them. Doing some “favors” until they decide you’ve “paid them back”, which can be never. The reputation of hurt and death is usually all the barganing chips they need to enforce their will on you.

Even legitimate, duly licensed collection companies will go after your relatives. They might not threaten to kneecap your mother, but they’ll certainly try to find relatives and ask them if they know about you and that car you’re not paying for.

Of course, they’d be stupid to do this, but most skip tracers and collectors aren’t known for brains or tact. In a friend’s case, they actually did call his mother on the other end of the country, and I told him that they couldn’t do that. He complained to the judge, the judge agreed and the case was dismissed.

Since you’re writing cheque, I’m thinking you’re outside of the US.
I have no knowledge of non-USian law, but in the US, writing a check you intend to cancel or that you intend to have bounce is covered by different laws than those that govern your failure to pay someone as promised.
I’m trying to avoid lawyering without a license, but I’ll say that you’re usually much better off welching on your creditors than you are bouncing checks.
Intentionally bouncing checks may result in your imprisonment in certain circumstances.
As long as you originally intended to pay for a good or service, failure to pay back your non-government creditors is unlikely to land you in jail or prison.
There’s no debtors prison in the US.
That being said, I know that a local businessman got 10 years of Fed time last year for “willfully lying or “forgetting” when filling out a loan application”.

And as far as loan sharks trying to collect from family… sure. They’ll ask nicely, and in some cases someone will gladly pay them back out of fairness. Collection agencies, also, will call and try to collect your personal debts from your spouse. They’re allowed to ASK, they just can’t lie and tell you that you are personally obligated for the debt in question.
Nothing wrong with making sure your dearly departed’s creditors get paid, if you have the money.

I’m thinking of a scene from The Sopranos. The T-1000 guy was a compulsive gambler, and got in waaaaay over his head with Tony’s crew.

No problem. The mob just busted out his sporting goods store, ordered as much as they possibly could on the store’s credit, and sending the stuff out the back door. Pretty soon the suppliers will refuse to send you more merchandise until you settle accounts, but if you’ve been a long-standing customer you could bleed them for quite a bit before they cut you off. And in the end, the store owner owes his suppliers big time and goes bankrupt, but his debt to the mob is paid off.

The store owner is coerced into it several ways. The threat of violence, or the implied threat of violence. He wants to keep his debt secret from his family. And he knows he’s a fucking degenerate gambler and deserves everything he gets.

Quote from psychonaut:

How does this work? If I were to use a cheque to pay for a lottery ticket or place a bet in a betting shop, and then cancel the cheque or have it bounce, I wouldn’t be legally liable for the debt?
That’s not the same thing. That’s just bouncing a check, or as others have stated, possibly fraud. Buying a lottery ticket is simply a retail purchase. Just because it is a ticket for gambling event doesn’t make it a gambling debt. The typical definition for a gambling debt would be an agreement between two parties to make a wager without putting up the cash first. Whatever the outcome, they will settle the debt between them after the fact, and one will be indebted to the other. At this point, if the one who owes the debt dies, the other guy is out of luck.

If there’s an estate, they’ll get paid before the beneficiaries get their money. If the dead guy had nothing of value, the creditors have to write it off.

Yes, they’ll threaten family. Because loansharks have their own bills to pay, and because they often have bosses waiting on a percentage. But most of all because in any loansharking operation, a day may come when a debtor and/or his family are worth more as an example than as a source of revenue.

Example: You are a loanshark with a book of two hundred grand in outstanding loans, upon which you make weekly collections. Joe the Debtor shows up and borrows ten grand, makes his payments for awhile, then taps out and has no more. Ten grand is nothing to you, but if word got out that you let Joe slide…trouble. Maybe half your book tells you to suck it because you’re weak, you’re out your initial hundred thousand plus your vig on all of that. You went from being a nice guy and letting Joe slide to being a joke and losing half of your weekly income. So that’s how Joe winds up with broken legs…he was more valuable as an example, even if putting him in the hospital meant sacrificing any real chance of getting paid on his measly ten grand in the near future. The rest of the book sees what happens when they don’t pay.

Threaten Joe’s family for ten grand? No. You do it for the rest of your book, to keep them in line and paying. It’s a purely economic decision, the purpose of which is to strike fear into the hearts of the rest of your existing debtors. Going after someone’s family does this very well. Future customers aren’t an issue, because as someone already pointed out, the type of people that borrow from loansharks aren’t really into Consumer Reports anyway.