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How debt collectors can find personal bank accounts

Debt collectors have several options for collecting financial judgments. If the debtor refuses to pay the judgment voluntarily, the debt collector will need to find ways to access the debtor's assets, including bank accounts. Debt collectors use a variety of methods to find these accounts, including subpoenas, public record searches and a review of the original creditor's records.

Getting a Judgment

Collection agencies cannot garnish wages, file property liens or take money out of a debtor's bank account without getting a court judgment against the debtor. If a debtor does not voluntarily pay the judgment, the collection agency can forcibly seize the debtor's assets, including his wages and bank accounts.

Attaching a Bank Account

To attach or levy a debtor's bank account, the creditor or collection agency must first locate the account and then ask the local sheriff to seize the money in that account. A creditor or collection agency cannot take the money from an account on their own; only the sheriff can ask the bank to turn over any money in the account.

Court Examination

If a creditor or debt collector takes a debtor to court, the creditor can question the debtor under oath about the location of any of his accounts. With this information, the debt collector can then attach the bank account and claim any money owed.

Public Records

Divorces, evictions and bankruptcies are a matter of public record. An inquisitive collection agency employee can search these records which may include details of a divorce or bankruptcy settlement. If the documentation mentions the name or names of the debtor's bank, previous landlord or other creditors, the collection agency representative can use this information in his search for the debtor's assets.

Checks, Creditor Records and Subpoenas

Checks contain both the name of the writer's bank as well as the account number. If a debtor wrote a check to a collection agency or the original creditor, either organisation can use this information to attach the debtor's bank account. A debt collector may also subpoena banks and other creditors in hopes of gaining access to their files on the debtor. Credit applications often include the name or names of the creditor's banks and investment brokerages, which gives the debt collector the information it needs to proceed with an attachment.

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About the Author

Lainie Petersen writes about business, real estate and personal finance, drawing on 25 years experience in publishing and education. Petersen's work appears in Money Crashers, Selling to the Masses, and in Walmart News Now, a blog for Walmart suppliers. She holds a master's degree in library science from Dominican University.