Debt settlement companies: consumers beware

30556169_906ac1bfdeThey go by many different names: debt settlement companies, credit counseling agencies, debt negotiators, etc. Many consumers turn to them when their bills started piling up. They pay the company several thousand dollars as an up-front fee. The company promises to get them out of debt through a “secret program” that the credit card company doesn’t want them to know about.

But what the debt settlement companies don’t tell consumers is that there really are no secret programs to get out of debt. I know this because I used to collect debts for some of the largest credit card companies in the world. And even though the credit counseling agency promises to settle your debt for pennies on the dollar, remember that it takes two parties to settle a debt, the consumer and the creditor. And creditors rarely settle debts for pennies on the dollar. So now the consumer is in the same position as they were before hiring the debt settlement company, only their wallet is noticeably lighter.

Consumers would be wise to avoid for-profit debt settlement companies. Many are outright scams that will pocket your money and then disappear.  And even the legitimate ones can’t do anything that you can’t do yourself for free. But if the thought of negotiating with your creditors makes you nervous, there are many non-profit programs that do fabulous work for no fee.

(photo: cowicide)

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