So you’ve got a ton of unsecured debt (credit cards, medical bills, old collections accounts) and you want to take proactive steps to finally reduce and ultimately get rid of them. You’ve seen all the commercials “cut your amount by 50%” and get those nasty creditors off your back. Debt settlement may be a great option for you but you want to be careful too. A lot of people have been ripped off by unscrupulous companies that prey on people in tough spots.
Top 5 considerations before choosing a debt settlement company
1. Check them out on the BBB. – The reality behind the BBB is that it is not a true representation of consumer protection. The BBB is run kind of like the mafia in a sense that each local chapter is a franchise and therefore they can be biased and give a good company a bad grade just because they are in a competing business. That being said for the most part the BBB is a good barometer of how well a company has been treating their customers. So check out whatever debt settlement company you are considering on the BBB. If they have a bad grade, then look at their complaints. If they have no complaints and have been around for a while there is a good chance the local BBB chapter may be owned by a competing business
2. Get referrals – Ask around. Talk to your friends. Getting out of debt is not something to be ashamed of. If you keep getting into debt over and over again after getting out that’s another story. Seek help. There are great companies out there who really are trying their best to help you settle with your creditors for less than you owe.
3. How much are you going to pay – There are varying fee structures that debt settlement companies use. On average you can expect to pay including fees, around 60 – 70 cents on the dollar. You may think that is not a good deal but if you are only paying the minimum payments on your accounts then it will usually take you 20 – 30 years to get out of debt and you will typically pay 200 cents on the dollar. Basically double what you owe right now.
4. Look for local offices – If you are going to do business with a company you would like to be able to see them face to face right. When it comes to an industry so fraught with corruption it makes a lot of sense to at least be able to actually look at another human being when considering a debt settlement company. As a matter of fact the new FTC law (link to new debt settlement rules protect you article) has many provisions to protect you with debt settlement companies.
5. Consider other options – Debt settlement can be a great tool to help you get out of debt but it’s not the only one. As futile as it may seem some creditors will work with you. Try to get an agreement in place with your creditor’s that is mutually beneficial for you and them. If that doesn’t work then you may want to try to get a consolidation loan. This could allow you to pay off your higher interest accounts with a lower interest rate loan. Obviously if you can’t afford anything there is always bankruptcy.