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How can a collection agency garnish your social security disability money from your checking account? I need help

San Francisco, CA |

A collection agency is trying to collect on an old debt that's past the SOL & I'm on disability. I read somewhere that they can garnish your social security disability money if it's deposited into your acct. Is this true? I wrote them a validation letter & received a "verification" letter back with their letterhead, org institution, open & charged off date that shows it's passed the SOL. What should my next move should be? Write them back or just ignore it. If I should write them back, what should it say? I know my SSDI is judgement proof but have read people's SSDI direct deposit was garnished. I understand in order for it to be garnish, I would have to be summoned. How do some people get their money garnished without a summons? Do I need to switch to another bank acct?

Or have the gov't send me a check instead? I know I have a good defense if I had to appear in court with it being passed the SOL, right? I would like to avoid having it get to that point if possible. Also the amount is really high, 5 digits high! Is that possible? Unfortunately I don't have the original agreement for the unsecured card anymore & I also have no assets or mortgage. Lastly, if the acct # & amount they are using don't match up & everything else does, could I dispute that with the credit bureaus to have it taken off my CR?

Attorney Answers 3

  1. Best answer

    You should contact a consumer law attorney, most will offer a free consultation. You need to be very careful about contacting the collector as you may inadvertently restart the statute of limitations.

    Consumer protection attorneys who deal with Fair Debt Collection, for additional help try: or

    To expand on what my esteemed colleague said, I would add the following:

    If a creditor other than the federal government tries to garnish your Social Security benefits, inform them that such an action violates Section 207 of the Social Security Act (42 U.S.C. 407).

    NOTE: SSI payments are not subject to garnishment.

    Section 207 bars garnishment of your benefits. It can also be used as a defense if your benefits are incorrectly garnished. SSA has responsibility for protecting benefits against garnishment, assignments and other legal processes usually ends when the beneficiary is paid. However, once paid, benefits continue to be protected under section 207 of Act as long as they are identifiable as Social Security benefits.

    However, the creditor may go after your bank account or other assets. You may lose the federal Social Security protection if you co-mingle your SSA money with other monies. Check with an attorney in your state.

    Effective May 1, 2011, a new Federal regulation requires that banks which receive a garnishment order for an account into which Social Security, VA, Railroad Retirement, or Federal pensions have been deposited, must look more closely before honoring the garnishment order. The bank has to figure out the sum of such Federal benefit payments that have been deposited to the account during a two month period, and must ensure that the account holder has access to an amount equal to that sum or to the current balance of the account, whichever is lower.

    Under this new regulation, you do not forfeit your protection from garnishment by mingling your Federal checks with other money -- but there are limits on the amount of money in your account that's protected from garnishment. Only 2 months worth of benefits are protected. Additionally, don't transfer benefits to another account or else the protection is void.

    Federal law says that many Federal benefit payments like Social Security benefits, Supplemental Security Income benefits, Veteran’s benefits, Railroad Retirement benefits, and benefits from the Office of Personnel Management are not subject to garnishment in most cases. This means that these funds are exempt.

    Your bank may be required to automatically protect some of your Federal benefits if they are direct deposited into your bank account and you may be able to stop your creditors from taking other exempt funds from your bank account.

    Disclaimer Information on this site is provided by Brian Scott Wayson as general information, not legal advice, and use of this information does not establish an attorney-client relationship. If you have questions about your specific situation, please call an attorney.

  2. No creditor can garnish you bank account without obtaining a judgment. You will know if the creditor is seeking a judgment because copies of the complaint and summons will be delivered to you. If the debt is truly past the SOL, then you need to defend the lawsuit, which will prevent the judgment from being entered. It is true that your SSDI cannot be garnished for consumer debt and, when deposited a bank account that contains only SSDI funds, it continues to be exempt. The problem arises when a judgment creditor attempts garnishment and the account is frozen while the time period for you to exert your exemption rights runs. During that time checks will be dishonored.

    Best wishes for a favorable result, and please remember to designate a best answer.

    This answer is offered as a public service for general information only and may not be relied upon as legal advice.

  3. Suggest you follow Mr. Wayson's advice as soon as possible. Good luck to you!

    The exact answers to questions like this require more information than presented. The answer(s) provided should be considered general information. The information provided by this is general advice, and is not legal advice. Viewing this information is not intended to create, and does not constitute, an attorney-client relationship. It is intended to educate the reader and a more definite answer should be based on a consultation with a lawyer. You should not take any action that might affect your claim without first seeking the professional opinion of an attorney. You should consult an attorney who can can ask all the appropriate questions and give legal advice based on the exact facts of your situation. The general information provided here does not create an attorney-client relationship.