Debt Collector Garnishes Woman’s Wages But Won’t Tell Her Exactly How Much She Owes

A woman in New Jersey fully admits that her financial irresponsibility led her to owe Capital One $1,286, an amount that eventually ended up in collections. But now that the same woman wants to get a better handle on how much she’s paying out every month, the collections agency refuses to give her an accurate account balance.

When her account was first sold to the collections agency in January, the woman arranged to pay $100 every month to pay down the debt. Those payments were made via money order to a court clerk.

Then in March, the agency started garnishing the woman’s wages — $169 every two weeks — in addition to her monthly payments.

Between those two forms of payment, the agency should have collected the full amount by now, right?

On her pay stubs every two weeks, it listed the amount garnished and the amount remaining to be paid, but the woman quickly realized that the math didn’t add up.

She contacted the agency, and says she was there was no record of either the garnishments or the payments to the court clerk.

“I told her that her company was already being paid twice and that all I wanted at this point was a statement… showing payments made and the balance due,” she tells the Newark Star-Ledger’s Bamboozled column.

And while the rep would not tell her the account balance, she did ask the woman if she’d like to pay it off.

She tried talking to the court about it but was just pointed right back in the direction of the collections agency.

In early May, the woman’s pay stub said she still owed $457 in garnishments, though the woman calculated she had paid out all but $21 on the amount by that point.

When Bamboozled contacted the agency, they were told no account information could be given because the debt — which by this point should have been fully paid off — was about to be sold to another agency.

Not that it had been sold, but that it was about to be sold in the coming weeks. It was if the woman’s debt was physically packed up in a cardboard box and sitting on a warehouse dock and no one could be bothered to open it up.

The court officer who accepts the woman’s $100 payments was able to clear up some of the mystery.

Apparently, while he accepts and tracks the payments he gets from the woman, another court officer is responsible to tracking the garnishments. The two officers file separate reports to the agency, which is supposed to total them and make sure there is no overpayment.

After chatting with the other court officer, the one who spoke to Bamboozled said the woman “should not remit any additional payment to our office… If there’s an overpayment, the court officer (handling the garnishments) will have to arrange for a refund.”

So isn’t the collections agency legally responsible for providing an accurate account statement to the woman?

Apparently, under New Jersey law, no.

The FTC tells Bamboozled that regulations specific to a debt collector’s responsibility to update a debtor’s balance are left to each state to decide. And no such regulation exists in the Garden State.

Capital One says it will look into the woman’s case.

Bamboozled: Debt collector wasn’t keeping track of payments and, surprisingly, state law doesn’t require it []

Thanks to Sami for the tip!