This is the number one threat issued by the collection agencies on credit card claims. What is wage garnishment? Garnishment of wages is a seizure of wages while they are still in the control of the employer, and have not yet been paid out to the employee. That being said, let’s get right to it, wage garnishment for a credit card debt cannot occur in Pennsylvania if you live and work in PA, and if the lawsuit originated in PA. In other words, if you are a PA resident who works in PA and the lawsuit was also filed in PA, then your wages cannot be garnished for a credit card debt.
Wage garnishment can occur in Pennsylvania only under very limited circumstances:
- where there is a judgment for spousal or child support;
- for recovery of defaulted PHEAA student loans;
- for restitution on criminal matters;
- for back rent on a residential lease;
- for obligations relating to a final divorce distribution;
- for certain tax obligations;
- where there is a valid out of state judgment that was transferred into Pennsylvania from a state that allows wage garnishments.
As you noticed, collection on a credit card or collection agency lawsuit is not on the list. Why does the collection agency make this threat then? Two reasons. 1) Because wage garnishment can occur in 46 of the 50 states in our country. They make this threat in Pennsylvania because they simply do not know the law. 2) Because they know that it is a scare tactic that works. The thought of having your wages garnished is a scary one, for sure. It gives quite a bit of incentive to voluntarily pay the debt.
The good news, as I have explained, is that wage garnishment cannot occur in Pennsylvania for a credit card or collection agency claim where the sole contacts with the matter all are in PA.
Let’s move on to some other good news regarding wage garnishment threats. To make a threat of wage garnishment in Pennsylvania is a violation of the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) and can give you the ability to file a lawsuit against the collection agency. I always recommend that after such a threat is made against you, you should get the person’s name, phone number and other contact information and make a notation as to the date and time of the call. Provide this information to your attorney who can then assess whether to file an FDCPA claim against the collection agency. If we file a claim against the debt collector, there is no out of pocket cost to you as we will force the offending agency to pay our attorney fees. In addition to legal fees, you would be entitled to statutory damages of up to $1000 plus any actual damages.
If you have a credit card company or a collection agency attempting to collect a debt from you, or, if you have a specific wage garnishment question, please contact my office at 412-348-8600 or send an email to Attorney Greg Artim or visit our Pennsylvania Credit Card Legal Center here.