One of the more embarrassing events in life is to deal with a third party debt collector that contacts your relatives to collect a debt. Fortunately, a federal law passed in 1977 prohibits such phone calls and the federal law gives you the legal right to seek damages.
However, another issue can pop up that is not only embarrassing, but also could be costly. Can a debt collector take money out of your family’s bank account?
About the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act
In response to growing consumer frustration caused by overbearing third party debt collectors, the United States Congress passed the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA). The FDCPA clearly prohibits third party debt collectors from harassing consumers, such as using abusive language or making threats to take legal action.
Debt collectors also cannot implement deceptive debt collection practices, such as impersonating law enforcement or making false legal claims. However, the FDCPA does not cover wage and income garnishment cases.
The question remains can a third party debt collector take money out of a family bank account?
Overview of Wage Garnishment Law
For the most part, each state develops the legal rules that apply to wage garnishment, including the maximum amount of garnishment per paycheck and the legal process for receiving a garnishment judgment from a court.
In addition to wage garnishments, debt collectors can also receive judgments to garnish bank accounts. However, the restrictions for garnishing bank accounts are much stricter than what most state laws have set for wage garnishments.
For family bank accounts, the issue often comes down to the legal definition of family.
How Do State and Federal Laws Define Family?
We have already learned that under the FDCPA, third party debt collectors are not allowed to contact family members to collect outstanding personal debts owed by relatives. With that in mind, it is easy to understand the same principle applies to family member bank accounts.
Debt collectors cannot take money from the bank accounts owned by your mother, father, brothers, and sisters, as well as more distant relatives such as cousins and nieces.
If you own a bank account that covers the finances for your immediate family and you are the sole wage earner in your family, a third party debt collector can win a judgment against you to garnish the maximum percentage allowed by the state where you live.
Contact an Attorney to Receive Legal Representation
Some debt collectors refuse to follow the legal guidelines mandated by the FDCPA. If a relative receives a phone call from a debt collector threatening to garnish money in a bank account for a debt you owe, you should contact an attorney to receive legal advice.
You also should contact an attorney if a third party debt collector threatens to go after your immediate family’s bank account. A licensed and experienced consumer protection law attorney can help you file a lawsuit to punish an over zealous debt collector.
Complete the free evaluation form to speak with an attorney to discuss the legal rights granted by the FDCPA.