You did everything to see to it that your bills disappeared. You burned the letters, ignored the phone calls, and marked the e-mails as spam. The only problem is your bills have far from disappeared. In fact, there are mysteriously large sums of cash missing from your bank account. As it turns out, your creditors have attached your account, laying stake to what you owe.
“If a person’s account is attached, chances are it’s not news to them,” says Detroit-based financial coach, Dorethia Conner. “There is a legal process creditors have to go through to attach a bank account.” Conner says once a creditor sues a consumer and receives a court injunction, legally, the creditor can begin to take money out of your bank account. “It usually takes one to two years of no response before a creditor will proceed with a lawsuit. If you don’t make some type of arrangement, that’s when the creditor sues a debtor.”
Here’s what you need to know if you are being sued by a creditor or if your account has been attached.
Show up to court: If you’ve ignored the numerous notices from creditors and have been subpoenaed to court, it’s in your best interest to show up so you can make an arrangement with the judge and creditor. “Normally a judge will work with you,” says Conner. “The problem arises when people don’t show up to court.” Not showing up to court allows the judge to rule in a creditors favor and grant a court order to garnish wages or attach an account.
Try to communicate, it’s not too late: As with most relationships, communication is key. Despite a bank account being attached, consumers should still reach out to creditors to work out an agreement. “You’re going to have to show what your expenses are,” says Conner. “First, write a letter explaining your expenses and how much you can afford to pay.” Once you write the letter, Conner suggests calling creditors to follow up. Remember, the outstanding debt has lingered for a year or more, so negotiating won’t be easy.
Talk to an attorney: Whether you’re making a court appearance or trying to negotiate with a creditor, once your account has been attached, consider seeking legal council, says Conner. Since a lawyer who specializes in bankruptcy or debt will likely know the policies and laws regarding a debtor’s rights, you may be able to work out a better deal in court. If a creditor has attached your account, a debt or bankruptcy attorney will be able to tell you the best route to take from there. Visit Findlaw.com, Lawyers.com, or Martindale.com to find a lawyer or research your rights.
Track your credit score: Not only will the missed debt payments likely be reflected on your credit report but an account attachment will also show up. “It’s called a ‘seize of account’ on your credit report and it stays there for seven years,” says Conner. Even after the debt is paid, those red marks will remain. “Bankruptcy hits credit reports by about 220 points and a missed mortgage payment hits your credit report by about 100 points. Having your bank account attached usually falls somewhere in between the two,” says Conner.
Look for community help: You shouldn’t try to deal with a bank account attachment alone. While Conner urges consumers to visit Lawyers.com, she also recommends checking out the Federal Reserve and Federal Trade Commission for information about debtors’ rights. She also suggest looking for local resources, such as community legal aid, where you will be able to obtain free council. “The NAACP also offers free legal advice,” adds Conner. “Check with your local chapter. The organization usually offers one sit-down pro bono session per month.”