Bank levies and garnishments are one of the primary methods of enforcing a money judgment. Usually, the hardest part of a bank levy, is finding out where your judgment debtor banks. Before 1999, one could legally lie to their judgment debtor to attempt to trick them into revealing the location of their bank. The parts of conversations with debtors which include lying, are called pretexting. Pretexting to get banking information, was made illegal in 1999. My articles are my opinions, and not legal advice. I am a judgment broker, and am not a lawyer. If you ever need any legal advice or a strategy to use, please contact a lawyer.
In 1999, the US Congress and President Clinton passed the Gramm-Leach-Bliley (GLB) Act. This law made it unlawful to use any deception, lie, or untruth for the purpose of obtaining the personal banking information of a bank customer. It is now against the law to make fraudulent statements, or to impersonate someone, for the purpose of getting information such as bank account numbers or account balances.
It is also illegal to knowingly hire, or arrange for other people to use pretexting tactics. There are legal (and time consuming and often expensive) ways to discover a judgment debtor’s banking information. One popular legal way is with judgment debtor examinations and third-party document requests.
Pretexting received a lot of attention in the media in 2006, when Hewlett-Packard’s (HP) Chairwoman Patricia Dunn got frustrated by leaks to the media from HP’s board of directors. It is claimed that she secretly acquired the telephone records of HP’s board members, to find patterns of their contacts and calling. Although eavesdropping was not involved, the unauthorized access of records started a public relations mess for HP.
Pretexting is defined as “the use of false pretenses, including false statements and impersonation, to obtain consumer’s personal or financial information”. Because no banking information was obtained, is what happened at HP a crime? That is a gray area, because when laws are written like hammers, much of the world seems to be a nail.
In 2008, the FTC shut down and sued two companies (Action Research Group- ARG, and Eye in the Sky Investigations – ESI) that sold consumer’s telephone and other personal records, because they lied about who they were, to get information under false pretenses, which was pretexting.
Primarily in the past, some judgment enforcers used to send gift cards, to try to get private judgment debtor information. Now, this might be considered pretexting, and it is not worth the risk. Pretexting remains illegal, even when you have “permissible purpose”.
When judgment enforcers pay research companies to locate their judgment debtor’s bank accounts, they should make sure that the company requires permissible purpose from them (and that the judgment enforcer is enforcing judgments they own), and that the company assures the enforcer they are GLB compliant and do not use pretexting.
The lesson is to be very careful about pretexting, and never use pretexts to find banking information. In general, and especially if you are part of, or related to a business, avoid using any form of pretexting.
A bank levy or garnishment is an excellent tool for judgment enforcement. Make certain that when you conduct your post-judgment asset investigation to find out where to have a bank levy served, you avoid any pretexting. For more information on this topic, check out: http://banking.senate.gov/conf/confrpt.htm
§ 6821. Privacy protection for customer information of financial institutions (a) Prohibition on obtaining customer information by false pretenses. It shall be a violation of this subchapter for any person to obtain or attempt to obtain, or cause to be disclosed or attempt to cause to be disclosed to any person, customer information of a financial institution relating to another person.
(1) by making a false, fictitious, or fraudulent statement or representation to an officer, employee, or agent of a financial institution;
(2) by making a false, fictitious, or fraudulent statement or representation to a customer of a financial institution; or
(3) by providing any document to an officer, employee, or agent of a financial institution, knowing that the document is forged, counterfeit, lost, or stolen, was fraudulently obtained, or contains a false, fictitious, or fraudulent statement or representation.