This just seems too good to be true, and with reason. According to the National Association of Consumer Bankruptcy Attorneys, government officials estimate that about one in ten debt settlement cases fail. The Better Business Bureau was quoted as saying that debt settlement schemes are an “inherently problematic business.” The New York City Department of Consumer Affairs went on to say that debt settlement is “the single greatest consumer fraud of the year (1).” When a debt settlement case fails, it can leave you even further in debt with additional late charges or over limit fees on top of what you already owed.
If you choose to take the risky debt settlement road, there are a few things to watch for:
- Do they encourage you to fall behind on your payments?
- Are they a for-profit businesses instead of a non-profit corporation?
- Do they charge high fees for their services?
- Are they offering you debt settlement for pennies on the dollar?
- Have they said that they can remove negative things from your credit report?
- How is their rating with the Better Business Bureau and your Attorney General’s Office?
Paying attention to these things can help keep you out of the debt settlement trap. It can help you differentiate a settlement company that is a scheme versus a legitimate company that may be able to help your finances (1).
Getting out of debt, no matter which method you choose, can take a lot of time, effort, and dedication. You can’t expect for a settlement company to get you out of debt quickly and save you tons of money. You need to do some research and consider all of your available options. Research the consumer information on the FTC’s website (ftc.org) (2). Talk to an attorney about Chapter 7 bankruptcy, or consider paying off the debt yourself using Chapter 13 bankruptcy or techniques like the snow ball method or by paying more than the minimum payment each month.
“The Debt Settlement Trap: The #1 Threat Facing Deeply Indebted Americans.” National Association of Consumer Bankruptcy Attorneys Consumer Alert. October 2012. 30 October 2012. <http://www.nacba.org/Portals/0/Documents/NACBA%20Docs/NACBA%20debt%20settlement%20trap%20consumer%20alert.pdf>.
Federal Trade Commission. 30 October 2012. <http://www.ftc.gov/bcp/menus/consumer/credit/debt.shtm>.