Can a debt collector legally garnish/clean out my savings account without my knowledge

Asked over 1 year ago - Hercules, CA

Yesterday, the day after Thanksgiving, I noticed that my checking and saving account total of $1700 was taken. My Bank told me that the LA shrif department has done that on behalf of collection agency and will continue to do so for amount of $7893.52.. I live in North Cal
The same collection company has also put exact amount of lien on my property.
This is an old debt which I never really owed. My morgage used to be by world savings and I used to call and make payment but a year before World savings became Wachovia, they would take my payment over the phone and also out of no where they would go in to my checking which was linked to a credit card and collect. This was many years ago. I am the care giver for my paralized mother who is blind and has demanchia. What is my right ?

Attorney answers (7)

  1. Jeffrey Scott Hyslip

    Pro

    Contributor Level 13

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    Answered . Property cannot be taken without due process. For example, you have to be provided with sufficient legal notice before a creditor can seize any of your assets. It sounds to me that you were not properly provided notice. I would encourage you to meet with an attorney nearby to get some advice on how/if you could vacate the judgment and execution. Good Luck!

    I am an attorney licensed to practice law in Ohio and some Federal Courts throughout the United States. I am not... more
  2. Dorothy G Bunce

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    Contributor Level 20

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    Answered . This kind of think can happen under one of two different scenarios - 1) the creditor is your bank and takes money from you under a provision in your contract with them called "set off" or cross collateralization." 2) the collection agency has a court judgment against you and the court issued a Writ allowing the sheriff to seize your money. #2 is much more common than #1, but I would begin by speaking with a manager at your bank to see they can provide you with copies of the sheriff's order, which you can follow like breadcrumbs to the Courthouse where the order was granted. As an alternative, since the bank may not be open today, you can pull a copy of your credit report and see if it lists any "public records" which would be a court judgment. I am posting a link to take you to a site where you can get free credit reports online right away. Once you know what court issued a judgment, you can search the records of the court for more details and clues to what has happened. My best guess is that you got served by publication because you moved and the creditor no longer had a current address for you. Hope this perspective helps!

  3. Robert Harlan Stempler

    Contributor Level 19

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    Answered . Linked below is my blog posting on the defendant's options when first learning that a default judgment was obtained, without proper service of the debt collection lawsuit. Essentially, you may have legal defenses to the lawsuit, but if that was not timely asserted in a legal response to the complaint filed in court, then a default judgment is obtained by the debt collection attorney. You will probably need to retain a lawyer to deal with this case and setting aside the default judgment. Alternatively, I have settled old default judgments, so that the debt is considered fully satisfied.

    Robert Stempler (please see DISCLAIMER below)
    www.StopCollectionLawsuits.com
    Twitter: @RStempler

    NOTICE: The above statements are provided for general information purposes only and are not intended as legal... more
  4. Susan Kathryn Ashabraner

    Contributor Level 13

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    Answered . Yes; a judgment creditor can have your bank account levied without prior notice to you. However, if the loss of money causes a financial hardship, you should consider preparing and mailing to the levying officer (the L.A. Co. Sheriff) a Claim of Exemption (http://www.courts.ca.gov/documents/ej160.pdf) with attached Financial Statement (http://www.courts.ca.gov/documents/ej165.pdf). The sheriff will hold the funds pending the creditor's decision whether to set a court hearing to decide the exemption.

    As for the unknown judgment against you, I suggest you consult with a local collections defense attorney to advise you whether you can have the judgment set aside.

  5. Daniel Lee O'Neil

    Contributor Level 18

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    Lawyers agree

    Answered . Jeffrey gave a great answer. You should gather all relevant documents you have and find an experienced local attorney that offers a free initial consultation to go over everything with you.

    Good luck

  6. Richard Scott Lysle

    Contributor Level 17

    3

    Lawyers agree

    Answered . You need to file a claim of exemption and also a motion to vacate the default judgment. Go to the courthouse and get a copy of the Proof of Service of the Summons and Complaint, and a copy of the Complaint. Then consult a lawyer regarding filing a motion to vacate the default judgment.

  7. Joshua Branden Swigart

    Pro

    Contributor Level 12

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    Answered . Typically, property cannot be taken from a private individual without due process. Here, it sounds as though you were not provided sufficient legal notice BEFORE the creditor seized your assets, and as a result, your right to due process may not have been met. Going forward, it is imperative to see if you can get the judgement set aside or vacated on the grounds of due process.

    I suggest that you contact a local consumer protection attorney as this question is a delicate legal issue and needs close examination.

    Feel free to contact my office, Hyde & Swigart, at (619) 233-7770 with any questions or inquiries you may have. Good luck!

    Hyde & Swigart is a law firm concentrating its efforts in the area of consumer law, the Fair Debt Collection... more
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