The Better Business Bureau recently issued a warning to consumers regarding the misleading practices of debt settlement companies. This warning comes after receiving more than 3,500 complaints since the start of the recession in 2007. The BBB reports that many individuals paid hundreds of dollars in upfront fees to debt settlement companies, but only fell deeper into debt after the process failed.
In an article posted to the BBB website, Stephen A. Cox, President and CEO of the Council of Better Business Bureaus said, “The debt settlement industry is flourishing and many families are being lured into believing that debt settlement is an easy fix and that their credit card debt will just disappear.” Mr. Cox went on to say that “the truth is that the process doesn’t work for many consumers, it has potentially serious negative consequences, and should primarily be used as a last ditch effort[.]”
Debt settlement companies typically offer to negotiate a settlement for a fee. Unscrupulous companies mislead consumers with promises of large savings and quick resolution. The truth is that it is difficult for a non-attorney to obtain a debt reduction of 50% or more. Additionally, these types of settlements are only available with a one-time payment. Most debt settlement companies require an up-front fee and ask the consumer to make payments into a savings account held by the debt settlement company for future settlement. During the process of six months to a year that it takes to build up the account, the consumer is at risk of garnishments and lawsuits.
In some cases fraudulent debt settlement companies have stolen from the consumer accounts, or refused to return funds. In other cases the consumer is driven deeper into debt when the debt settlement company is unable to settle the debt.
Unlike debt settlement, the bankruptcy process is a legal process supervised by a federal judge and the U.S. Department of Justice. Your agent is a licensed attorney throughout the process. There are no hidden fees and you pay only what you are able to afford. At the end of the bankruptcy process your debts are discharged and you receive a financial fresh start ordered by the bankruptcy court.
If you are struggling with debt and need financial relief, speak with an experienced attorney and discover how the federal bankruptcy laws can help you and your family. Don’t be a victim of a debt relief scam. Contact the attorneys at Haines and Krieger for a free consultation.