When a person’s world is turned upside down by something like the onset of a serious illness, a divorce or a sudden termination, they can expect to receive a certain amount of empathy from their friends, family and colleagues over their troubles. Indeed, much of this compassion comes from an understanding that these types of troubles not only take a personal toll, but a financial toll as well.

Unfortunately, there is at least one group that is entirely unsympathetic to these struggles: debt collectors. Indeed, once a person falls behind on their payments, it’s not uncommon for the unwanted, unrelenting and unfriendly communication from debt collectors to begin.

As we’ve been discussing in previous posts, however, it’s important for those who find themselves on the receiving end of these often distressing communications to remember that they are protected by the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act.

Understanding garnishment

In the event you fail to pay a debt, a debt collector can file a lawsuit seeking to collect payment and, in the event they prevail, a judgment will be entered against you. This judgment will outline the debt, and enable the creditor to secure a garnishment order directing a third party — the bank or your employer — to hand over a designated amount of funds.

As grim as this sounds, it’s important to remember that a debt collector cannot attempt to garnish your wages or bank account without a court order, and that many will attempt to circumvent this requirement. Furthermore, it’s important to respond to a lawsuit summons filed by a debt collector, as doing so will preserve your right to challenge the attempted garnishment.

Lastly, it’s important to understand that outside of covering things child support arrears, delinquent student loans and back taxes, federal benefits are typically exempt from garnishment. Accordingly, any attempt by creditors to garnish federal benefits — Social Security benefits, Supplemental Security Income benefits, disability benefits, veterans’ benefits, etc. — is illegal.

This concludes our ongoing discussion of the FDCPA. According to the federal government, those who believe they’ve been victimized by illegal debt collection practices should consider contacting the Federal Trade Commission, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and the Attorney General’s Office in their state.

It should also be noted that those who believe they been victimized by creditor harassment can help put a stop to it by filing for personal bankruptcy. To learn more, consider speaking with a skilled legal professional.