Can debt collectors garnish your wages or federal benefits?

July 6, 2016

You work hard for your paycheck, so the threat of having some of your pay taken from you – even before you see it – can be extremely troubling. For seniors and others on a fixed or limited income, the fear of losing what little they have can be even more distressing. When you owe money, a debt collection agency may threaten to garnish your wages or benefits in the attempt to force you into a quick decision.

Some states do allow wage garnishment to pay off debts. However, a debt collection agency cannot issue this kind of threat unless it or its client has begun the legal process to collect your debt in this fashion. In other words, until wage garnishment has been legally ordered, your paychecks cannot be garnished, and it is illegal for a debt collector to threaten that they will do this.

As for other forms of income, federal benefits such as Social Security, veterans’ benefits, Supplemental Security Income, and so on are protected from debt collection in most cases. However, if you owe money to the government or if you owe child support, the money deposited into your bank account from federal benefits may be seized.

In these cases, your bank must protect at least two months’ worth of benefits. For example, if you receive $500 per month in benefits, then your bank must allow you access to at least $1,000 from your account. Any amount beyond that may be used to pay off creditors if it has been legally ordered.

Don’t take chances with your paychecks and your savings. If a debt collector is pressuring you with threats of wage or benefit garnishment in Illinois, speak with a debt collector harassment attorney in Chicago immediately. We can help stop illegal threats from debt collectors.