Can a Collection Agency Garnish my Wages?
From what my clients have told me, this threat occurs with great frequency. The typical scenario is that the individual has defaulted on a credit account. The original creditor, be it Citibank or Capital One or whomever, fails in its attempts to get the defaulting individual to pay. The individuals debt is now referred to as "bad debt". Many times, the original creditor will simply give up and sell the "bad debt" to an outside company, such as a collection agency, for pennies on the dollar, sometimes even less.
The collection agency then attempts to collect on the bad debt to make good on its investment. Initially, there may be a phone call or two, and then a letter from the agency to the individual. If the account is not immediately paid in full, some collection agencies turns their efforts up a notch or three, and begin to make threats to the individual.
The most common threat is that the individuals wages will be garnished. Often times, the agency will tell the individual that the wages will be garnished "next week" if the account is not paid in full, or, in the alternative, if a substantial payment is not made on the account. If this occurs to you it may actually be a good thing because the debt collector will have just violated the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act. The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act is a federal law that regulates and mandates what a debt collector may do in its attempts to collect on a monetary debt. In my experience, I have found that many debt collection agencies violate this law on a daily basis.
I can say with certainty that there is no law in the land that allows a creditor such as a collection agency to garnish your wages without due process of law. Due process, in a nutshell, is the ideal that you must be allowed to present/defend your case in a court of law. Everyone is entitled to their day in court, no matter how open and shut the case may appear.
If a debt collector threatens to garnish your wages without the filing of a civil lawsuit, be sure to find out exactly who you are speaking to, what company they are with, their address and return phone number. Be sure to note the date and time of the call as well. Then, contact a Consumer Attorney in your area to begin formal proceedings against the debt collector. Under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, you will be entitled to monetary damages and recovery of your attorney fees. In this regard, many consumer attorneys do not charge a retainer to institute one of these actions, or, they charge a small amount and attempt to recover the fees from the offending collection agency. If all goes well in your lawsuit, your debt will not have to be paid, you end up with a few bucks in your pocket, and your attorney fees are paid as well.
Greg Artim is a consumer attorney based in Pittsburgh Pennsylvania. For more answers to your legal questions, be sure to visit his website at Pittsburgh Consumer Attorney