What to do if a collection agencyhas repeatedly told me that if I cannot pay what the want me to pay, they will garnish my wages?

UPDATED: Sep 15, 2011

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What to do if a collection agencyhas repeatedly told me that if I cannot pay what the want me to pay, they will garnish my wages?

I have a medical bill that has recently been sent to a collection agency. I recently applied for assistance through the hospital. I was approved for an 80% discount. The agency contacted me tonight trying to get me to pay the balance in full. I told them that due to a recent job change, I would only be able to pay $50 a month now. She said that wasn’t enough. I told them that I would send that payment anyway. She said that my account may be submitted for garnishment as soon as tomorrow. Sent to my employer and the amount owed would increase. There has been no letter from a court or anything.

Asked on September 15, 2011 under Bankruptcy Law, Georgia


SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 11 years ago | Contributor

If you currently owe a given amount of money  (even if that might be reduced or discounted in the future, if the reduction or discount has not yet been confirmed or fully agreed to), the creditor or their agent can try to collect the whole amount owing. If there is an enforceable agreement to reduce your debt, they can only try to collect the remaining amount after the reduction; therefore, one key issue is what is your actual debt as of the moment, based on the balance due and any firm agreements. Promises, statements that should or will be approved in the future, etc. may not affect, unfortunately, what  you actually owe as of the moment.

Whatever the amount of money you owe, the creditor or their agent has a right to get the entire amount; they are not obligated to accept what you say you can pay. So if you can't pay whatever you owe, they can reject your offer and take steps, such as seeking garnishment, to collect the balance. Garnishment does require a court order, though depending on the situation, that may not be difficult for them to get.

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