As consumer debt continues to spiral out of control, debt relief is fast becoming a major concern for many American’s. In 1999, American’s made $1.1 Trillion worth of credit card purchases. In 2001, American credit card debt hovered around $690 billion. Unfortunately, in today’s unstable economic conditions, many American’s are being forced to turn to credit cards as a way to extend their income. Consumer debt is at an all-time high and American’s need to know what they can do to get out of debt. Often, consumers are seeking the services of professional debt settlement companies to help regain control of their finances. However, prior to making such an important decision, it is important to fully understand who you are doing business with.
The most important thing you can do when making the decision get help with your debt related problems is to be an informed consumer. It is absolutely critical to do your research. Do not rush into things; this can cause more harm that good. Prior to signing on with any Debt Settlement company, make sure you ask the following questions and consider their responses:
* Is the debt settlement company you are considering accredited by The Association of Settlement Companies (TASC)? Personally, I would not consider doing business with any debt settlement company that’s not! TASC accreditation reduces risk to consumers and gives overall confidence because the member company has been independently evaluated by a third party for its competence and performance capabilities. Any company that truly has the client’s best interest in mind will take the time, and make the effort, to do so. While the process can be long and difficult, in the end, it is best for the consumer and the company.
* How much does the service cost? When choosing a solution for debt relief, it’s important to make sure the program is something that’s affordable and realistic within your monthly budget. If you can’t afford the program and join anyway, you’re are just causing more long-term financial problems for yourself; however, if you are able to meet the monthly financial requirements of the program, Debt Settlement is a great form of debt relief for unwanted credit card debt. Most people don’t realize that Debt Settlement is the quickest and least expensive form of debt relief outside of bankruptcy.
* Does the company offer any type of service guarantee? If so, what is the guarantee? If a company can not get settlement on your debt, you should never have to pay a fee, or the fee should be fully refunded. Additionally, steer clear of any debt settlement company that promises a quick fix to your debt related problems or tells you that debt settlement will not have a negative effect on your credit. Upon enrolling in a debt settlement program, your credit score will probably get worse before it gets better. This is a minor price to pay for being given a substantial debt settlement and not having to file for bankruptcy! However, it is important to realize that if you want to maintain a “good credit rating”, you have to pay you bills on time; anything else will cause your credit score will suffer.
* Does the debt settlement company you are considering have IAPDA certified debt arbitrators? IAPDA certified debt arbitrators possess a solid understanding of the laws governing the Debt Settlement industry and fully understand your current financial situation.
* Does the debt settlement company you are considering offer any type of bankruptcy assistance should debt settlement not work out for you? For example, some debt settlement companies will offer a refund of some of the program costs to help pay for a bankruptcy attorney of your choice. Of course, the funds would have to be paid to a licensed attorney and not directly back to you. Again, a company that does this will most likely have your best interest in mind.
* Does the debt settlement company you are considering belong to the local Chamber of Commerce? If so, is the Chamber an accredited member of the Chamber of Commerce of the Unites States? This type of affiliation will help ensure that the company is conducting business in a proper manner.
* Is the debt settlement company you are considering a member of the Better Business Bureau? It doesn’t really matter. Unfortunately, the BBB does not yet recognize Debt Settlement as an industry, due to, in my opinion, being misinformed by the credit card industry and their agents, the Credit Counseling industry, about the effectiveness and success rate of its participants. As a matter of fact, in some states the BBB has not allowed Debt Settlement companies to even join the BBB, and the BBB has a rating scale that is skewed to give Debt Settlement companies a D or F rating just for the industry they belong to. This is a disservice for consumers, because it does not allow consumers to distinguish between reputable debt settlement companies and those that are less then desirable. For consumers that are truly interested in doing research to select a qualified Debt Settlement company, a great resource is The Association of Settlement Companies website, which is TASC is the watchdog group that enforces a strict code of standards and disclosures to its member companies. Companies are monitored through a third party “secret shopper” program to make sure they are consistently upholding the high standards that TASC embodies.