Answers about Garnishments

A collection agency repeatedly tries to garnish my bank account. Each time this happens, my bank account is frozen. I provided the collection agency appropriate notification that the account contains only Social Security or other Federal benefit payments that are exempt from garnishment but they continue to try to garnish my account. May the collection agency continue to do this, even though it knows that the account contains only funds that are exempt from garnishment?

As of May 1, 2011, many of your direct deposited Federal benefits are automatically protected.  If money in your account is automatically protected, a collection agency or other creditor is required to get a new order each time it tries to garnish your account.

To see if your debt collector’s conduct is prohibited under federal law, such as the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, you want to contact the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) at 1-877-FTC-HELP (1-877-382-4357) or visit its website at www.ftc.gov. You can file a complaint about a debt collector with the FTC through its website.

Also, you may want to contact a reputable credit counseling agency. The FTC offers information on choosing a credit counselor on its website. Additionally, the National Foundation for Credit Counseling provides an online directory of credit counselors or you can contact them at 1-800-388-2227.

You can contact the attorney general or the consumer protection bureau in your state for assistance or to file a complaint against a debt collection agency.

You may want to ask an attorney about your rights.  Assistance may be available to you through a local legal aid or legal services organization.

June 2011