By Julie Watts

SAN JOSE (KPIX 5) — Debt collection is at an all-time high in the United States and it turns out debt collectors don’t always go after the correct person.

One mix-up almost cost a Bay Area man $800.

“They give you like two-week’s notice,” Greg Phipps said.

Phipps says he was shocked to see the notice from the California Franchise Tax Board saying his salary was about to be garnished.

“I was like, what could this possibly be?” Phipps explained.

It was $786 for a court-ordered debt that would be deducted from his next paycheck, but it didn’t say why.

And when he called the Franchise Tax Board to find out, “they said we can’t do anything to help you, we can only pursue the garnishment based on the order we have,” Phipps recounted.

The state said the garnishment order came from the Santa Clara County Superior Court, but they couldn’t help either.

“They said, ‘Well, we can’t do anything about it,’” Phipps said.

So, Phipps did some digging and discovered he was being garnished for a 2014 citation from the Milpitas Police Department and issued to a homeless man, also named Greg Phipps, with a similar birthdate but a different address and physical description.

And it’s not the first time the courts targeted the wrong Greg Phipps.

He discovered he had gotten arrested for an illegal crossing of the street.

Wage garnishments are at an all-time high. According to ADP, 4 million Americans had their wages seized in 2013 alone.

Representatives from both the California Franchise Tax Board and the courts tell us, they don’t verify your identity before garnishing wages.

They say it’s up to the issuing authority, in this case the cops.

But when Phipps went down to the police station, they said it was too late.

“If you have the power to take money from people you really, really should make sure they’re the ones that did the thing wrong,” Phipps said.

We contacted the franchise tax board – which issued an emergency stop to the garnishment – set for today.

Phipps is now filling what’s known as an emendation order,” which the court says will help to separate his records from the other Greg Phipps in the future.


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