SAN MATEO, Calif., Nov. 20, 2017 /PRNewswire/ — For the many Americans who face unmanageable credit card debt, it’s time to get their financial lives in order, says Andrew Housser, co-founder and CEO of Freedom Debt Relief – and if they need outside help, time to know how to find the right firm.
Many people are able to systematically pay off their own credit card debt with a good budget, belt-tightening and discipline, according to Housser. “However, consumers who are having a hard time making payments or are struggling to pay off bills from a medical episode or an accident, job loss or other life event may find it helpful – or necessary – to turn to a reputable debt relief firm,”
People looking for a trustworthy debt relief organization to help win the battle against debt can ask Housser’s seven questions:
- Individualized plans: Does the company provide actual consultations and free advice to consumers? Or does the company direct every consumer into a pre-determined plan, such as a debt management plan or debt settlement plan? Be especially wary of any company that pushes you to a plan without thoroughly reviewing your finances.
- Education: Does the company provide educational material, including budgeting and financial advice, free of charge? Many firms consider educational material an additional fee source, not a benefit to their clients.
- Management: What is the background of the firm’s management team? Look for relevant education and experience. Watch out for those that jump from opportunity to opportunity.
- Company history: How long has the company been in business? How many customers has it served? Ask if the company and its own employees provide service through the life of the program. Some companies contract out to other businesses after enrolling a client.
- Success rate: Request and review the company’s dropout and completion rates. This information can help indicate how well a company structures negotiations and payment plans.
- Fees: What are the fees, and how will the firm assess them? It is important to look at fees over the life of the suggested program. For example, credit counseling can sound very affordable because the monthly fees may be low. Over the course of a five-year plan, though, they will add up. A person with an original debt of $20,000 might end up paying $30,000 over five years in a credit counseling program. If the firm is a debt negotiation business, does it assess fees before settling a debt? The Federal Trade Commission’s 2010 rules prohibit debt negotiation companies from charging fees before a debt is resolved.
- Additional services: How will the company help with creditor calls? Will it provide assistance if a payment issue goes to court? Find a company that will work with you through the entire period, and all circumstances, of your debt relief program.
The choice of a debt relief firm will depend on the individual consumer and situation, says Housser. No one method is best for everyone. One good place to begin searching for a credible debt relief firm is on the website of the American Fair Credit Council. Members must meet strict standards, including complying with the Federal Trade Commission regulations.