The headline says it all: Costly Debt Settlement Schemes Prey on the Most Debt-Burdened Consumers Struggling to Recover From Economic Downturn.
The Better Business Bureau, the New York City Department of Consumer Affairs, the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO), the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) as well as 41 state attorneys general have all uncovered substantial evidence of abuses by a wide range of debt settlement companies.
The problem is that the vast majority of debt settlement companies require that you stop making payments on your current debts and therefore default on them. The idea is that you start making payments to the debt settlement company, and they will negotiate a settlement with your creditor. The problem is that when you default on your loan, the creditor very quickly adds penalties and interest to your debt, which increases the amount you owe very quickly.
Not only that, but the creditor also starts to aggressively collect on the debt, often calling debtors at home or at work, as well as filing suit against them in court. The debt settlement company in the vast majority of cases are not able to negotiate a settlement and as a result the debtor is left with more debt, a worse credit score and possible lawsuits filed against them.
Most debt settlement companies also require hefty fees to be paid up front and on an ongoing basis. When the debtor terminates the program, the debt settlement company almost always keeps all the payments made to it as “fees”. Any way you look at it, it is a bad outcome for the consumer.
The National Association of Consumer Bankruptcy Attorneys has released a consumer alert as well as a news release which includes additional information:
It is recommended that consumers steer clear of any companies that
- Make promises that unsecured debts can be paid off for pennies on the dollar.
- Require substantial monthly service fees and demand payment of a percentage of what they’ve supposedly saved you.
- Tell you to stop making payments or to stop communicating with your creditors.
- Suggest that there is only a small likelihood that you will be sued by creditors.
- In fact, this is a likely outcome. Signing up with a debt settlement company makes it more likely that creditors will accelerate collection efforts against you. Creditors have the right to sue you to recover the money you owe. In Nebraska, when creditors win a lawsuit, they have the right to garnish your wages or put a lien on your home.
- State that they can remove accurate negative information from your credit report.
- No company or person can remove negative information from your credit report that is accurate and timely.
As Ed Boltz, NACBA Board member and incoming NACBA president said: “Many different kinds of services claim to help people with debt problems. The truth is that no single solution works in all cases. Bankruptcy is an option that makes sense for some consumers, but it’s not for everyone. For example, the National Association of Consumer Bankruptcy Attorneys and its individual consumer bankruptcy attorney members do not encourage every person who looks at bankruptcy to enter into it. What makes sense for each consumer will depend on their individual circumstances. We encourage everyone to get the facts and do what makes the most sense in their situation.”
If you have questions about your debt situation or you’re dealing with an aggressive debt collector, please give me a call at (402) 718-8865 or email me by clicking here. I am an Omaha attorney who counsels people regarding their financial situations and can help you determine whether bankruptcy makes sense or not.