Can Debt Collectors Garnish Wages?

The short answer is “yes.” They can garnish your wages, BUT only after they get a judgment. It doesn’t matter how they get the judgment, whether by default or after trial, as soon as they get the judgment they can go to your employer (if they can find it) and start garnishing your wages without even notifying you.

They can also go to your bank and seize your bank accounts.


There are some exemptions you should bear in mind: the federal law limits the amount that can be garnished to some extent. The amount subject to garnishment is only that part of your income that exceeds the minimum wage by a certain extent. And there are state law exemptions as well. These would depend on what state you live in. From my conversations with people facing garnishment, though, these exemptions don’t protect much from the debt collectors. Definitely worth looking into, but if you make much more than the minimum wage they’re going to get some of your money.

The best solution is to keep them from getting a judgment. That isn’t to say give them whatever they want, because there’s not a significant difference between paying them voluntarily and paying them by garnishment if the amount pushes you into poverty. If the collectors are after you, you will want to negotiate if possible and defend against a lawsuit if necessary.

For more on what debt collectors can or cannot do, check out the following videos:

Can Debt Collectors Garnish Social Security?

Protect the People you Care about – Protect their Social Security