The Federal Trade Commission yesterday announced that it has charged an Irvine, California-based debt settlement company with making deceptive claims and that they often left their clients in much worse financial shape than before. This is not the first (and won’t be the last… A few others have included California, several in Florida, Ohio, Texas and elsewhere).
Eventually, the American public in general will need to collectively come to the conclusion that the following items (as indicated by the FTC) are HUGE clues that the organization (nonprofit or not) is either completely illegitimate and a fraud or that you should at least flee from them with your financial lives still in tact:
The FTC advises the public to “Avoid any organization that:
- charges fees before it settles your debts (I would suggest that this should include legal fees if the agency is a law firm)
- tells you to stop communicating with your creditors
- guarantees that your unsecured debts can be paid off for pennies on the dollar”
Such schemes often promise to save you 30% to 70% on your credit card debt over the next year or two. Yes, these are the types of organizations you also hear advertisements for in the midnight hours of radio and television… although I’ve also heard their commercials on my commute home in the afternoon.
Please don’t EVER trust your money to such an organization unless you are confident that they’ve been around for years, that you’ve been referred there by a reputable agency, and you’ve checked out their reputation with the Better Business Bureau and their state’s attorney general’s office.
Of course, if you want to work with a nonprofit who partners with both you and your lenders so that everyone comes to a new solution together (to which the creditor is also bound to abide), credit counseling agencies are the first place to visit. I’m employed by Debt Reduction Services Inc, but otherwise you can find many other options at www.aiccca.org and www.accpros.org.
Have a great week!