Depending on the laws in your state, a creditor with a court judgment against you may have the right to attach a lien to your personal property, seize your bank accounts and garnish your wages. Creditors lack the right simply to "file" judgments. To obtain a court judgment, your creditor must sue you and win. Although creditors must serve you formal notice of a lawsuit, some states allow plaintiffs to serve notice to your last known address – and then grant the creditor a judgment by default when you do not appear in court. You can find out if a creditor has a judgment against you by reviewing your credit report and checking public records.
Pull a copy of your credit report from TransUnion, Experian or Equifax. Any judgments against you will appear in the "Public Information" section of your credit report. You can request a free copy of your credit report online from each credit bureau by visiting the AnnualCreditReport website, which is the only one approved by the Federal Trade Commission to provide consumers with free annual credit reports. You can also access your reports by signing up for monitoring with any of the three major credit bureaus.
Visit the PACER website and create an account. PACER is the government's Public Access to Court Electronic Records database and provides you with immediate access to court records nationwide. Not all courts upload their records to PACER. However, if your court participates in the program, you can access information about any cases filed against you by searching national records using your name or searching your local court district's online database through the PACER system.
Visit your county courthouse's court records department. Inform the clerk at the counter that you are trying to find out if there are any current judgments against you. The clerk will then access the information by computer and can provide you with copies of any documents noting the existence of a judgment.
If you aren’t comfortable talking to the clerk about your judgment, some courts offer public access terminals. These public access terminals allow you to research court information in private.
The Fair Credit Reporting Act gives you the right to access a free copy of your credit report every 12 months.
If you are not comfortable requesting your free credit report online, you can make your request over the phone by calling 1-877-322-8228.
The credit bureaus charge a fee to consumers who opt to use their monitoring services when accessing their credit reports.
- Lawyers.com: Creditors’ Legal Rights
- PACER: Public Access to Court Electronic Records
- Minnesota Judicial Branch: Access Case Records
- Federal Trade Commission: The Fair Credit Reporting Act
- Richard Cordray — Ohio Attorney General: Free Credit Reports Are Only At AnnualCreditReport.com
- Bankrate: Checking Your Credit Reports
- NEDAP: Vacating a Default Judgment
- MyFICO: How Do Public Records and Judgments Affect My FICO Score?