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Ask Dave

Garnishing the Wrong Guy

Tom says his paycheck is being garnished. The collector is garnishing the wrong person though. Tom wants to know how to get them to stop this garnishment on his income.

QUESTION: Tom in Arizona says his paycheck is being garnished. The collector is garnishing the wrong person though. Tom wants to know how to get them to stop this garnishment on his income. Dave suggests giving them a chance to correct the problem first before going to the bar.

ANSWER: I would be calling the law firm about the first instant I figured that out and tell them they have about 13 seconds to refund your money or we’re going to have a lawsuit like they’ve never seen. They need to stop this garnishment. You can’t garnishee the wrong people arbitrarily and just decide you’re going to zap anybody with the same name’s money. If they can’t figure that out, 13 seconds after that, I’m going to be hiring an attorney to go after them. But I think they’ll get really nervous really fast when you say, “Look, it’s not me. You have the wrong Social Security number. You have the wrong middle initial. Your lack of competency here—your malpractice—is about to get you people filed with all kinds of complaints at the bar and personally sued, so you need to refund my money and pull this garnishment in about the next minute and a half.”

You don’t need to contest the judgment. The judgment’s not on you, so it doesn't sound like a case of identity theft. The judgment is on someone else who has a different middle initial and a different Social Security number than you. You don’t have a judgment on you. You don’t have anything to contest.

Go to the lawyer who did the garnishment. They are in the middle of a malpractice mess here. I think you can call over there and probably get a paralegal and probably get this straightened out in 20 minutes because I think they’re going to freak out because they’re going to realize they are unbelievably liable here. That’s my guess. If they don’t freak out and they don’t reverse this instantaneously and write you a check today, then I’d be filing charges on them at the bar and hiring an attorney to sue them.

Give them the opportunity to correct their incompetence because everybody makes mistakes, but the question is how does a professional react to the mistake? They react very, very quickly because they realize they’re at fault. It would be the equivalent of, for instance, if someone called here to buy a book and gave us their debit card number and one of our people put the wrong debit number in and took the order for $1,000 worth of Total Money Makeover books out of the wrong guy’s account. It’s the same kind of thing. If somebody called here and said that we did that, we’d be going, “Oh, my God. Quickly, we will fix this. We’re so sorry.” That better be the reaction you get out of these bozos. If not, dude, you need to start lighting people up. Just immediately go, “Listen, I’m filing charges on you at the bar this afternoon, and I’ll be filing a lawsuit on you personally and the attorney. I’m going after everybody here.”

It’s unconscionable that they’re that sloppy. I think you ought to talk to your payroll department about watching their processes and strategies and match Social Security numbers before they allow a garnishment. I don’t think they were very diligent either. If someone sends me a garnishment—I’m the employer here—on one of our team members, we have the right to look at the Social Security number and match it. If the Socials don’t match, they have the wrong garnishment. I’m not bound to fill that order.

Several people need to be lit up here. This is unbelievable.