We received the following reader question this week…
Q: I keep receiving calls from PDLR group saying they have a court order for a wage garnishment. They do not tell me who the creditor is—just that I need to call them back to stop the garnishment. I have received nothing in writing. They have been continually calling since July. Have you ever heard of them and do you know if they are legitimate?
A: I do recall receiving complaints about PDLR in the past, and I found quite a few online when I simply searched for “PDLR Group.” I also checked with the Better Business Bureau. It lists a PDLR Group in Aurora, Illinois, but says it is not rated. Finally, I searched the Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation’s website. That agency licenses collection agencies in Illinois. No results were found for PDLR.
I cannot confirm whether this agency is legitimate or not, but in addition to my efforts to research the company above, you describe other red flags in your email.
[Infographic: What to do if a Debt Collector Calls]
First, in order to garnish your wages, a creditor or collector almost always must first take you to court and get a judgment against you. You would typically know about this because you would have been served with a court summons informing you that you were being sued for a debt. It is possible for a creditor or collector to get a “default” judgment against you if you don’t show up in court when you are sued, however, so you may want to check your credit reports to make sure no judgment is listed.
Secondly, when a creditor or collector gets a court order for wage garnishment, the next step is usually to contact your employer to initiate the garnishment. As the National Consumer Law Center explains in its helpful guide, Surviving Debt:
After obtaining a judgment, the collector can file a request for garnishment with the court clerk, sheriff, or another local official depending on state practice. A notice is then issued to the “garnishee” (a bank, an employer, or another third party holding your property), directing that party to turn over the money at a specified time.
You must be given notice of the garnishment. You can then request a hearing to prove that state or federal law protects your money from garnishment.
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The fact that you haven’t received anything in writing is problematic. A debt collector is required under federal law to send you notification of the debt within five days of initially contacting you, and that notice must include specific information about the debt it alleges you owe. If you have moved and didn’t leave a forwarding address, then it’s possible the collector can’t find you. But I also have to warn you that one of the hallmarks of the collection scams that have been sweeping the country is the fact that these companies never send anything in writing, and rely solely on the telephone to intimidate debtors into paying bogus debts.
I would recommend you call this collection agency. If necessary, have a friend or relative with you for moral support. Keep a pen and paper handy to take notes of what the collector says.
Your goal is to simply tell the company to send you something in writing. Don’t engage in any other conversation about the debt. No matter how they try to steer the conversation, tell them you know your rights and you want written notification of the debt. If they refuse, or start threatening you, you can hang up. If they call you again, talk with a consumer law attorney.
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Image: Dan Huby, via Flickr.com