This is part two of two in the article series about collection of judgment. You know that locating a Bank Account is a good for collection of judgment that is owed you. With a judgment you can apply for a Writ at the court and have the Sheriff, Marshall, or a Process Server “hit” the bank.
There are websites that will charge you money for the information I am going to give you here. But I believe it should be available to everyone free. That includes the “how to it” and the “what not to do”. The “what not to do” is important so that you won’t run afoul of the law.
What I’m going to say here is not legal advice. I am not an attorney, and only attorneys can give legal advice. But I can make some observations, and share some of my experiences. If you benefit from them, that’s all the better.
Okay, there are many ways to find a bank account Some are legal, and some are illegal. For example, it is illegal to call a bank and pretend to be the ‘fiancé’ of the person who owes you money, wanting to make sure he is giving you correct information about his financial worth. Worse yet, you might pretend to be the debtor himself or herself.
This is illegal because in 1999 Congress enacted the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act (GLB), which specifically prohibits obtaining, or even attempting to obtain, another person’s financial information by making false, fictitious or fraudulent statements to a financial institution. If you want to read it right from the GLB itself, go to http://banking.senate.gov/conf/fintl5.pdf. You will then be fully informed, though probably quite bored.
I have been told by some that the GLB was concerned with identity theft. It has even been suggested to me that those who want financial information simply to collect money owned them, are not involved in identity theft, and therefore the GLB does not apply to them. Others would say that this is creative thinking. I’m not an attorney, but to my mind it’s still too early to see how that might play out in the courts. Violation of the GLB is not something I would be involved in.
So what are the legal ways to locate bank accounts? Some I’ll share here are obvious. Some others are creative. Some others are daring. Here goes:
9) Subpoena Vehicle Records
Does your debtor own, rent, or lease a vehicle? The license plate will often tell you where he or she got it. Then subpoena the applications from the dealer. To get the best auto deal, the debtor was probably quite liberal in stating his assets and income. You may also find out where the debtor works. Bank accounts will also be listed. Applications are terrific sources of information. Go for it!
10) Subpoena Rental or Mortgage Applications
Whether your debtor rents or owns a home, there is a paper trail available to you. If the debtor rents, send the manager or owner a subpoena for “full application and all other records relating to the rental of properties, as well as any copies of debtor’s checks maintained by the manager/owner.”
If the debtor owns a home, you can probably go on line a get a copy of the “deed of trust.” Then you’ll know who the mortgage holder is, and you can immediately subpoena the mortgage application. Again, the debtor will have made a very positive assessment of his assets. And it’s yours for the asking. (See the above note on “Notice to Consumer, if your state requires it”)
11) Subpoena Information from Employer
Some employee information is confidential. However, which bank the debtor’s wages are sent for direct deposit is fair game to request. Subpoena those with a Notice to Consumer.
12) 3rd Party Judgment Debtor Examination:
I’m not familiar with the laws of every state, but in many states you can require that someone who owes the debtor money or who even “knows” about debtor’s assets can be required to appear in court and answers questions. Check with your court, and check the codes of your state online. If it’s doable, do it. Bring the person in and ask the questions you want. In California it is possible to bring in the landlord of the debtor, and even his employer! Talk about getting the debtor’s attention!
13) Shotgun Levy
Most people bank within a 2 mile radius of where they live or work. So go to Yahoo Maps or Map Quest, put in the debtor’s address, and check to see what banks are in the immediate area. Choose the five main ones, get a writ and have the Sheriff or Marshall levy on all five of them. You may get a ‘hit’ on more than one!
A writ is usually less than $10, and a levy is probably around $35 dollars for each. That’s not much for what you may gain. It will also freeze the debtor’s account, and his checks may bounce. But you wouldn’t want that. Ha!
14) Property Records at the County:
If your debtor owns real property he or she will pay property taxes. In some states and in some counties the check you write is part of the public record at the Assessor’s Office. More and more these records are user friendly. What used to be on microfiche and microfilm is in many cases on the county computer, and even on line. Check the records at the county. See if it applies to you.
15) Find Out What Other Creditors and Debtors Know:
The Court House computer is another treasure of facts. Much of it is even on line now, and more to come in the future.
If you put your debtor’s name in the court computer you’ll discover old judgments, cases that were dropped, people who are HIS debtors, old landlords, and likely a general cross section of the debtor’s personal and work associates. You never know what you will find. Take notes. Pull the files. Take more notes. Call all the people you can, and find out everything you can. Debtors are creatures of habit, like most people. They likely will have been banking at the same bank for years. Send your subpoena, or sent out a levy.
16) Call the Banks and ask about the Debtor.
I know, I know. I said don’t call the bank and tell them you want to know whether the check you have is good. And I said that any misrepresentation is against GLB. But I’m not suggesting any misrepresentation.
What if you just called a bank and said, “Hi, my name is (your real name), and I have a Court Judgment against (debtor’s real name). The case number is (case number) , and I need to know if he/she has any accounts with you.”
A friend of mine actually tried this, and found that if he called 8-12 branches from a particular bank, someone who answers would give up the information. Someone will be impressed that it’s a court judgment, and say, “Oh, let me check. Yes, he has an account with us, but I can’t give you any other information. I’m sorry.” Or, they will say, “I’m sorry, no accounts here.”
The point is that it may take you an hour to call 10 branches of a bank until someone cooperates. You are not misrepresenting yourself. You are exactly who you say you are.
The debtor owes you money, and you want it. It may take some effort, but I encourage you to do it. 80% of judgments are not collected at all! The courts don’t help, and the Sheriff’s for the most part just deliver papers.
So we have to do it ourselves, or get someone to do it for us. I suggest doing it ourselves. Yes, there may be some initial frustration. But when you get to know the “system” pretty well, you’ll be a better and more informed citizen. You will probably also get some of the debtor’s money in your pocket, and there is more than monetary satisfaction to doing that.