CBS Compliance Corner – May

This article is the sixth in an on-going series on the life of an account as it makes its way through the collection process at Collection Bureau Services, Inc. See previous blog entries for more information on the life of a collection account.

Now, after a lengthy process, our account is included in a judgment. Once entered by the court, the judgment imparts the ability to legally attach certain assets of the consumer. Even with the judgment, however, many of the consumer’s assets remain protected. There is an entire list, too extensive to detail here, but some exempt items include social security payments, most retirement accounts, and, with recently passed legislation, some Health Savings Accounts, as of October 1, 2017.

Still, there are items that are available, including wages, bank accounts and real property. In these areas there are additional restrictions and protections for the consumer. For instance, wages must reach a certain threshold based on the federal minimum wage multiplied by a set number of hours per particular pay period, before the wages are open to garnishment. After all that, there is still a limitation on the amount allowed to be attached, generally 25 percent of take-home pay. Monies in a bank account may also be protected from the creditor depending on their source and length of time in the account. In the case of your account at CBS, we will have researched these assets before beginning the legal process. Each situation is unique. As discussed in earlier articles we give every consumer the opportunity to pay voluntarily. If this is unsuccessful we will do an asset search to determine suitability for legal action. In general we look for one or more of the following; employment in a position that suggests the consumer will meet the minimum income requirements for garnishment, some suggestion that the consumer has an open bank account, or, an ownership interest in real estate. Given the length of time it can take between filing a lawsuit and obtaining the actual judgment, the consumers circumstances certainly could have changed since we began the process. Nonetheless, the results of this pre-litigation research usually dictates our immediate path after the judgment has been entered.

Each of these three common asset classes call for a different approach. In the case of real estate, taking steps to see that the judgment is properly entered in the district court with authority over the area wherein the property lies, by prescription of law, is sufficient to put a lien on the property. This is the least obtrusive, and, by extension, the least immediate action. With extremely rare exceptions, CBS is not in the business of foreclosure. Rather, the lien is security for you, coming to light on either the sale or refinance of the subject property.

Wage garnishment, on the other hand, is immediate, obvious and direct. The consumer, unmoved by an invoice from you, by notices and calls from CBS, indeed by the personal service of process, now becomes aware that inaction has consequences. Even here each case is different. Some will immediately call CBS to try and make belated arrangements, while others, for reasons known only to themselves, decide to live with the regular wage attachment.

As for bank levies, they fall into two classes. Often, through prior contact with the consumer, CBS will have some knowledge of the banking location. Other times, the particulars are hidden. Some agencies will take felonious liberties and attempt to contact financial institutions under pretensions of being the consumer, known as pretexting. CBS has long been an advocate of exposing this practice for what it is, basically nothing more than low-level identity theft.

How then, absent specific knowledge, does CBS locate a consumer’s bank account in order to appropriately and judicially resolve your account? In most cases it comes down to a willingness to expend funds to serve bank levies on various institutions until the appropriate bank is located, the one the consumer is using. While this is an expensive and laborious process, it is the only way we have found to ethically and legally search for funds with which to satisfy your justly owed debt. Indeed it’s a surprisingly effective tool.

Next month: After the Judgment is paid