Debt Settlement on Today Show

The Today Show recently did an expose on debt settlement companies. While I agree wholeheartedly with their negative opinion on most debt settlement firms, they have failed the test of fair and balanced journalism.
Investigative Today Show reporter, Lisa Myers, spent all of her time uncovering the ugly truth about one company, Credit Solutions. If you remember an earlier post on my blog (https://debtsettlementstory.com/debt-settlement-companies-some-incur-more-debt/), I had also contacted this company.  I was almost desperate enough to fall for their sales pitch. Luckily I didn’t. Here’s a review of their pitch in a nutshell:

  • I was to deposit $2000/month into an escrow account.
  • The first 6 months of these payments into that escrow account would go towards paying the debt settlement company for their services.
  • I would continue to make $2000 payments for approximately 36 months.
  • As settlement offers came in, they would consult me.
  • The banks would be paid from this settlement account.
  • In 36 months, I would be out of debt.

In reality it doesn’t work this way. Most consumers never finish the program. In fact, once the settlement offers come in from the banks, most clients don’t have enough money in their escrow account to pay the offer. Most of their immediate monies have been used to pay the debt settlement company’s fees. Most consumers file bankruptcy.
This is the exact conclusion Lisa Myers came to. However, she fails to see the bigger picture. Not all debt settlement companies have such egregious practices. In fact, there are about half a dozen or so that are true consumer advocates.
She got it right when she said the FTC will soon pass laws banning the upfront fees. Why didn’t she go on to say there are debt settlement companies out there who ALREADY take their fees on the back end?
Unfortunately, Ms. Myers’ article is the typical sensational reporting that we have come to expect. There is nothing positive about her piece. No real help to the desperate consumer. Only doom and gloom.
Had the Today Show really wanted to investigate debt settlement companies and actually disperse useful information to help those in need, she would have mentioned companies like Consumer Recovery Network, Zip Debt, Hoffman Brinker and several others who really make a difference in this sector. Here’s what’s great about these debt settlement companies:

  • No hard sell of their program.
  • You talk to a real debt settlement counselor, not sales person, when you call the company.
  • Performance based commissions that are paid AFTER YOUR CREDITORS GET PAID!!!
  • DIY programs offered for those consumers who are industrious.

In fact, all 3 of the companies I mentioned ENCOURAGE the consumer to do it themselves. They make less money per client with this business model, but they know the success rate is much higher and the benefit to the economy is much greater.
Here is Today’s video.
http://today.msnbc.msn.com/id/26184891/vp/38123545#38123545
Stay afloat. Stay focused. Wealth and freedom are in your future.
Jonathan

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Trying To Avoid Charge Off

If you are new to the blog, click HERE to start at the beginning of my story.
POST #28?
I was content to let my account charge off at the end of February and go to the Recovery Department until my CRN coach tried to talk me out of it.
There was a complication that she wanted to avoid. Very soon, I was going to apply for a loan mod on my house (yes my story continues!). She thought it might be risky to play chicken with the bank this one last time. There were for 2 reasons:

thunderbirds
Image by Blondie5000 via Flickr
  • If I got sued by my VISA account, it would destroy my chances at a loan mod.

  • My mortgage bank would be less likely to grant a loan mod if I had outstanding unsecured debt.

With the loan mod on deck, her advice was to not screw around. Let’s land this last deal and move on.
I trusted CRN implicitly so I went along with the advice. I called the VISA department 6 times between 2/25-2/28 in an effort to settle. My CRN rep even decided to step in and make the calls for me. This would end up costing me a bit more money if she landed the deal, but it would be worth it.
We called on Friday, Saturday, Sunday – multiple times each day. We re-told the story over and over. We spoke with call centers in Iowa and Oregon. We weathered threats of judgments and law suits.

PEARL HARBOR, Hawaii (May 4, 2007) - Chief Min...
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Unfortunately, nothing worked. The VISA collections department was firm. And when I say firm, I mean” firm like the buttocks of a body builder” firm.
THEY DID NOT BUDGE.
After our last ditch effort failed on Sunday 2/28, we resolved ourselves to charge off. But not all was lost.
On Sunday evening 2/28 we called the Recovery Department. Apparently, the account would be there on Monday morning. We wanted to get a head start so we called them. We told the rep that our prior offers were for $5000, but I put my ego aside and asked one more friend to loan me $2500. This would make our total offer $7500. The rep was impressed with my tenacity. He was sympathetic, smart and straight forward. He listened.
From his point of view it was a long shot – a BIG long shot. But he read through my notes and could tell I was sincere and up front. As long as the account hit his system in the morning, he agreed to bring it to his supervisor first thing.
We could only pray that the account would appear in his computer the next day and NOT end up in purgatory.
Stay tuned. Stay afloat. Wealth and freedom are in your future.
Jonathan

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Debt Settlement DIY or Hire The Guy

If you are new to the blog, click HERE to start at the beginning of my story.

POST #8
Should I do it myself or hire a company?
At first I thought, if I can’t manage my finances, how can I handle the debt settlement process?  After more research, (am I getting my point across about research? :-)) I realized there were several good reasons for DIY.
?

  1. The banks respond to real people and their authentic story.

  2. ?

  3. Why should I incur MORE debt by hiring someone? Won’t the bank ask why I am paying someone $10k but not paying my $10k credit card bill?

  4. ?

  5. I decided to take control of my life. Why would I HAND OVER CONTROL to a company I hardly knew?

  6. ???

  7. It didn’t seem difficult.

  8. ??

I almost went with Credit Solutions. They tried to hard sell me by saying they had an advantage because they negotiate a huge amount of debt with banks. They also have relationships which makes the process easier.  The bulk debt reason, I understand. Relationships with the bank??  Wait a second?
At Credit Solutions, the client pays a HUGE upfront fee based on total debt. What is their incentive to get a better deal for the client? Since the bank is their primary relationship, won’t they pad the in favor of them?
People! Don’t fall for it!!!
There is so much information out there. Granted, it can be overwhelming. As such, I chose a cross between DIY and hiring a company.
With Consumer Recovery Network, after you purchase the DIY CDs for $495, and pay $100 per account you enroll,

CRN charges only $50 per month for unlimited phone and email support.

I know it sounds crazy, and you’re probably thinking I am just selling you here, but it’s true.

  • $495 for the DIY CDs
  • $400 to register my accounts (4 accounts at $100/each)
  • Total upfront fee: $895.

Each month I paid $50 and if they had to step in to negotiate for me, ALL the fees thus far would be applied to their commission.  Let me tell you, this is a steal. My first call with my CRN counselor was 3 hours long! I spoke to her again probably 4 more times that month and exchanged over 20 emails.
For $50/month I got:

  1. Unlimited phone and email support.

  2. ?

  3. Training on the language to use when speaking to the bank.

  4. ?

  5. Coaching on making my phone calls at specific times during the month – YES THAT MATTERS A LOT!!

  6. ?

  7. Advice on how to structure the negotiations in a way that allowed me to leverage my hardship position.

I am a big fan of this hybrid. You have complete control of the process, but if you get stuck, you have a bailout.
Stay tuned. Stay afloat. WEALTH AND FREEDOM ARE IN YOUR FUTURE!
Jonathan Grossman

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Debt Settlement Companies, Some Incur More Debt

If you are new to the blog, click HERE to start at the beginning of the story.

POST #4
Research! Research! Research!
You will hear me say this dozens of times. As a consumer, it is our responsibility to be educated and informed. The lack of education, laziness, or in my case, DENIAL, gets us in trouble.
I vowed to never again be an uninformed consumer. With that in mind, I put all of my efforts in to finding the best debt settlement options.  I spent 4 weeks and about 40 hours on the phone talking with different companies.
There is a barrage of information out there. Just by typing debt settlement into Google, you will get 8,650,000 results. Click HERE.

Insane. It is daunting to cull through these resources and decipher what the hell they are offering. I took my time to understand my options. My first calls were to the obvious big companies like: Credit Solutions, Ameridebt and CuraDebt.  But I also looked into some of the lesser known companies like Pacific Debt.  Here was the standard offer:

  • I was to deposit $2000/month into an escrow account.
  • The first 6 months of these payments into that escrow account would go towards paying the debt settlement company for their services.
  • I would continue to make $2000 payments for approximately 36 months.
  • As settlement offers came in, they would consult me.
  • The banks would be paid from this settlement account.
  • In 36 months, I would be out of debt.

At first, I was very excited and relieved about a solution to my problem.
———————————————————————————
Below are the estimated savings and expenses from 2 of the companies I spoke with. As you can see there is an incredible amount of variance. A lot of that deals with the fees and the length of time you take to settle.

CuraDebt Plan

If they got a 50% savings on my $130,000 of debt, it would take 41 months of $2000/month payments to get out of debt. Total cost including settlements and fees:$81,900.
If they got a 60% savings on my $130,000 of debt, it would take 36 months of $2000/month payments to get out of debt. Total cost including settlements and fees: $71,500.
If they a 75% savings on my $130,000 of debt, it would take 28 months of $2000/month payments to get out of debt. Total cost including settlements and fees: $55,900.

PacificDebt

With $130,000 of debt, it would take 46 months of $2000/month payments to get out of debt. Total cost including settlements and fees: $90,995.
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Pretty interesting stuff, right!?!
After a few days, I saw something that didn’t make sense:

  • Before I would decrease any of my debt, the debt settlement company would increase my debt on average of $12,000 because they get paid first!
  • All of the companies say the bank offers their best deals during the first six months – but according to their suggested schedule, I would have no money left in my escrow account at 6 months because all of that $12,000 would go towards paying the debt settlement company their fees. Which by they way, is for a service they haven’t even performed. Let me repeat this because it is critical.

T

THE BEST OFFERS COME AT THE 6 MONTH MARK.  EVEN THOUGH I WOULD HAVE ACCUMULATED $12,000 IN MY ESCROW ACCOUNT, I WOULDN”™T HAVE ANY MONEY LEFT IN THERE TO PAY THE SETTLEMENT OFFER BECAUSE THAT MONEY ALREADY WENT TO PAY THE DEBT SETTLEMENT COMPANY!!!!

Talk about the contradictions!? In many cases, clients get discouraged at that point. They drop out of the program and declare bankruptcy. These debt settlement companies thrive on our falling out of the program. They are predatory companies much in the same way the credit cards are predatory lenders. Remember what I said about educating myself?  I would not be a victim a second time around.
So let’s review…. this is why most debt settlement companies are scoundrels:

  • I pay the debt settlement company $12,000.
  • In 6 months, the bank makes an offer.
  • Since I have no money in my escrow account, I ask the bank to spread the payments out over the next 6 months so I can have time to accumulate some funds.
  • The bank declines because most of their settlement offers have a 90 day payment time-frame.
  • Threatened by liens and judgments, I drop out of the program and declare bankruptcy.
  • The bank writes off my debt.
  • The debt settlement makes pure profit.

I proposed this contradiction to the reps, but their response was foggy at best. Since I was using the information they gave me to explain this contradiction, they didn’t have an answer that made sense. Instead, they deflected my question by saying they can get a better deal than I can get myself. WHICH IS TOTALLY UNTRUE BY THE WAY!
It became clear that the rep was just a sales person and had no REAL idea about this process. Once enrolled, I would never talk to him again.
As I said before, lets take ownership and take control. I fell into the debt trap, but I was not going to fall into the debt settlement companies’ trap.
Please don’t be so desperate and incur more debt when you are trying to get out of debt. If you take the time to run the numbers, you will see most programs don’t make sense.  An effective debt settlement company will charge a nominal start up fee, base their commission on performance AND take their commission AFTER you have paid the bank. Sound too good to be true? Stay tuned!
In the next post, I will discuss how some debt settlement companies are true consumer advocates.
Stay tuned, stay afloat. WEALTH AND FREEDOM ARE IN YOUR FUTURE!
Jonathan Grossman

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