Can a Debt Collector Garnish My Wages?

By Steven Shaw on 7/18/2013

Managing Debt

Can a Debt Collector Garnish My Wages?

A debt collector can, in fact, garnish your wages, but only if it’s legal to do so in your state. For this to happen, a lawsuit must be filed against you. A possible outcome from such a lawsuit is a judgment against you to garnish property or wages.

When wages are garnished, the creditor receives money deducted from the debtor’s paycheck to apply towards the delinquent debt. Wage garnishment is most common in delinquent tax situations and unpaid child support, but credit card debt can also lead to wage garnishment. When another asset is involved in the garnishment, such as a property, a lien is placed on the asset for the judgment amount. When the property is sold, the money obtained from the sale is first distributed to creditors.

If you default on a credit card, the credit card company will typically sell the debt to a collection agency. If you are unable to pay the collection (settle the debt for less), the collection agency may try to sue you, file a judgment against you, or possibly garnish your wages in order to collect the debt. Again, they can only garnish your wages if it’s legal in your state. To be sure, check with your state attorney general’s office to find out if wage garnishment is legal in your state. You can find out if you have a judgment against you by pulling your free credit report at You can monitor your credit once a month for free using the Credit Report Card, which can alert you to a lien or judgment that has been filed against you if your score drops.

If you are struggling to make payments, the best thing to do is call your credit card company and try to renegotiate your payments to see if there are any other options available. Keep in mind that not paying your bill may damage your credit for several years.

Image: iStockphoto

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