A VISA Debt Settlement Offer

If you are new to the blog, click HERE to start at the beginning of my story.
POST #29
This is the day!!!!
Famous last words…..well it wasn’t THE day, but it was a BIG step forward.
I got on the phone with my contact in Recovery, let’s call him Billy. I had done my dance of the purgatory fairies the night before. Apparently they heard me because my account was in his system.
Billy was a down home kinda guy. A slow, calm droll to his voice – focused, smart and confident, but no attitude.  Quite frankly, I felt lucky to have found him. He seemed to understand my plight and was willing to work with me. Usually, I don’t believe in bonding with your “salesman” but with Billy it was different.  He was authentic, so I trusted my gut and trusted him.
He reiterated that $7500 was extremely unlikely. He had seen offers of 40% ($11,200), but only in extreme circumstances.  From his experience, my account was likely to be in his department for about a month and it would take that much time to get the supervisor to consider a deal that even came close to my offer of $7500.  That said, he was a man of his word and agreed to send it up the flag pole.
He put me on hold for less than 2 minutes, came back on and said he couldn”™t reach any sups but would try a manager.
In what seemed like 10 seconds, Billy came back on the phone.  He wasn’t the excitable type, but there was a smile in his voice.
Apparently, he had never seen an offer this low and this quick.
$9809.87 or 35%

We were in business!!!!!!

I calmly thanked him, showed my appreciation, but said this was still $2300 over my offer and I had to consult with my credit counselor (CRN coach).

Giant House of Cards
Image by Tjflex2 via Flickr

At this point, it was critical that my story stay consistent. In reality, I had access to about $8600, but our financial story had been a complicated one of borrowing (true), and deferring payments (true). We had allowed ourselves a little bit of wiggle room without telling the bank.  Now that we were going to counter offer above our most recent offer of $7500, we had to mathematically explain how and why it would happen. If there was a hole in the story, it could all fall apart like a house of cards.  The domino effect of which could make my real house fall like a house of cards. Not good.
Luckily, Billy added a little piece of magic to their offer. Unlike so many scoundrels in the collections and recovery departments, he took the pressure OFF of me.
“No one is putting pressure on you to decide today. The offer is good for 2 weeks.”
This is really unheard of!
So close…..but not quite there.
Stay tuned. Stay afloat. Wealth and freedom are in your future.
Jonathan

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Debt Relief Resources – 10 best sites for information

If you are new to the blog, click HERE to start at the beginning of my story.
POST #22
I have a lot of people ask:

Where can I do my research? What are the best resources?

There are many great resources on the internet. I’d like to think this blog is one of them! 🙂
Out of the hundreds of resources, about 10 of them are really worth your time. Here is my hit list. If you read the info at each of these sites, you will have a great foundation for understanding debt settlement.

Top 10 Debt Settlement Resource Sites

  1. Federal Trade Commission: A wealth of information on what is currently legal, illegal or yet to be determined. If you missed the Senate Committee hearing 2 weeks ago it is worth a viewing.
  2. National Association of Consumer Advocates: Know your rights
  3. Legal Advice Line: Get inexpensive expert legal advice.
  4. National Association of Consumer Bankruptcy Attorneys: Find an attorney in your area that has expertise in bankruptcy and debt settlement.
  5. About.Com:Credit: A collection of forums and blogs covering everything credit related.
  6. Credit Info Center: Great forums, articles and opinions on debt settlement.
  7. Zip Debt:  Charles Phelan is an extraordinary resource on the topic of debt settlement. His DIY program has gotten incredible reviews and results. His blog is indispensable.
  8. Hoffman Brinker: Contains step by step videos explaining the pros and cons of debt settlement.  Easy to understand and a great starting point for your education.
  9. Get Out Of Debt: Steve Rhode’s blog and resource site. Steve is an expert in the credit/debt field. His site is very well trafficked and he has a major presence there. If you post a question, you will get an answer.
  10. Consumer Recovery Network: Saving the best for last. Michael Bovee is the MAN.  He is the consummate expert in this field. Always on the cutting edge of this industry and very generous with his time. ’nuff said!

Happy researching!
Stay tuned. Stay afloat. Wealth and freedom are in your future.
Jonathan

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Debt Settlement Weapon of Choice – Consumer Recovery Network

If you are new to the blog, click HERE to start at the beginning of my story.
POST #21
I have shared with you, again and again, that debt settlement is a process. It forced me to do a lot of research, tested my patience and resolve and challenged my brain. But I want to make one thing clear, I am not an expert. I am a FIRC (former irresponsible recovering consumer) who successfully followed the coaching and guidelines of the Consumer Recovery Network DIY program.
Several times I have looked back on this experience and wondered if I could have done it all on my own without the help of a DIY program.  There is a lot of free info on the internet. Heck, this blog itself shows you many of the techniques used to navigate the process.  After careful review, I have concluded that you CAN do it without the help of a company…..but I don’t recommend it.
Here are a few pitfalls of going solo:

Ozzfest 2007: Zakk's Solo 3
Image by LuvataciousSkull via Flickr
  • Every situation and bank negotiation is different. You will have to improvise along the way. A wrong choice can kill the deal.

  • Timing is everything. Not all banks process the collections in the same time line. You will be doing some guessing.

  • The reps will lie to you. How will you sift through the BS?

I followed CRN’s DIY program. I listened to the CDs, read the workbook and had about 30 hours of phone calls with my CRN coach. Guess which was the most indispensable aspect?

The advice from my coach.

There were a zillion forks in the road during my debt settlement. All of the solutions came from discussions with my coach. I have shared many of these solutions already, but I want to add one last thing.
I knew was getting close to a settlement on these 2 big line of credit accounts. It would take a bit of fancy footwork, negotiating and quick thinking. There was critical phone call I had to make and decided to add an extra safety measure. This technique, appropriately called the Debt Settlement Weapon of Choice, can only be done when you have a coach. Hang on, this is a good one!
I called my CRN coach, put her on mute, then conferenced in the bank.  While I was talking with the bank, my CRN coach was listening in and emailing me questions to ask the bank rep. GENIUS!
We only did this once, during a critical call. It was a great help because, despite all of my preparedness, the flow of this particular conversation was beyond my expertise. I couldn’t distill the truth from the BS, nor could I determine the best questions to ask.
In short, you can do a full on “free” DIY by using info on the internet.  But for me, I concluded it was best to have an expert coach offering advice and counsel specific to my situation.  Especially when that advice was in real time during the conversation, via email!!!
Stay tuned. Stay afloat. Wealth and freedom are in your future.
Jonathan

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Debt Settlement Insider Info

If you are new to the blog, click HERE to start at the beginning of my story.
POST #20
I was flying high from my first settlement.  It was an amazing feeling to say the least. However, I still had my work cut out for me. Even though I had tons of information and momentum, I still had 3 accounts totaling over $100,000 to deal with. In the scheme of things, the party was just getting started.
I did have a few things going for me though:

  • I knew the best deals were had in the recovery department.

  • I could use my first settlement of 35% as bargaining power when reps said that the bank never settles for less that 50%.

At the advice of my CRN rep, I made a bold pro-active move.  Two of my line of credit accounts were set to charge off on 12/24/09. Even though it this was 3 weeks away, she suggested that I call the Recovery Department and start the conversation with them. Wow was this an interesting phonecall.
Since I had been calling every other week for 2 months, the notes on my account would add credence to my plea for a better settlement. Here’s what happened:
On 12/8/09, I spoke with Ms. XXX in the Recovery Dept and told her that the collection department offered me a settlement of 60%, but I couldn’t afford it. I then offered her $20K to settle on both of my accounts – balances totaling over $100,000.

She said,  “That”™s an awesome settlement and if the accounts were in my department, I would accept it right now!”  Let me repeat this because it is amazing!

“That”™s an awesome settlement and if the accounts were in my department, I would accept it right now!”

Unfortunately for both of us, my accounts weren’t in her department so we couldn’t strike a deal. But this was exciting news nonetheless.
Then she said another amazing thing:

“I wouldn”™t recommend this, but if you want a better settlement, you should wait for the account to reach the Recovery Department.”

Okay…..now I don’t know about you, but when the rep at the bank essentially tells me how it works…

I LISTEN!!!!!

As you can see, this rep let the cat out of the bag. From what I understand, reps in these departments are like sales people. They get a commission. At the end of the month/year, they are offered incentives to settle more accounts. Maybe my $20k would put this rep into another bonus bracket and she would be able to afford the trip to Hawaii with her family. Who knows? Either way, I was going to wait for charge off on 12/24, wait for the account to go to the Recovery Department and probably get a settlement close to $20k.
I knew this wasn’t a sure thing, because nothing ever is. But based on the information provided thus far, it seemed likely.

Knights in Shining Armor III
Image by IslesPunkFan via Flickr

I want to add something here. In no way am I suggesting that the best route for debt settlement is to wait for your account to charge off.  Remember, debt settlement is like dating with the bank. You have to go through every “chivalrous” routine before you get kissed. In terms of the bank, chivalry includes:

  1. Calling every 2 weeks

  2. Calmly explaining your story, YOUR TRUE STORY

  3. Being gracious when offer are made, even if you can’t afford them

  4. Being genuine by letting the bank know you are not some scum-bag trying get out of your debt.

In the coming posts I will detail how the settlement on these accounts actually went down.
Stay tuned. Stay afloat. Wealth and freedom are in your future.
Jonathan

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Credit Card Department Psychosis

If you are new to the blog, click HERE to start at the beginning of my story.
POST #19
Debt settlement is a very interesting process.

  • On the one hand it is simple: you negotiate a lump sum payment with your bank at a fraction of the amount owed and you both go your separate ways.
  • On the other hand, you are dealing with a corporation and as you may know from the movie The Corporation.

“If the dominant institution of our time [the corporation] has been created in the image of the psychopath, who bears the moral responsibility for it’s actions?”

This is the crux of the problem with debt settlement. It isn’t that the bank doesn’t want to settle, it’s that they behave like psychopaths.  Let’s remember:

  • In October, the credit department told me the never for less than 85%
  • In November the collection department told me the never settle for less than 60%
  • In December the recovery department told me they never settle for less than 40%

So how did I get a settlement for 35%?
Simple answer: Corporations are psychotic!

The Interior of Bedlam (Bethlem Royal Hospital...
Image via Wikipedia

But really, it came down to this. I discovered that when dealing with a corporation like a bank, I have to understand that different departments have different standards and quotas. The collections department is supposed to stonewall you at 60% because they know most consumers will be intimidated and settle. The bank also knows that once your account is in the recovery department, they have to make a better offer or will likely get nothing. Your credit will suffer once your account is in recovery, and they will use this as a bargaining chip. I already knew that credit repair was in my future, so I couldn’t let a few more points get in the way of a good deal.  Playing chicken with the bank!
Additionally, the deal can be contingent on the personality and mood of the rep with whom you are speaking.  Does this sound arbitrary and unfair? Yes. And it is.
With this information, I was able to navigate through the psychosis of the bank.

Top 5 points that helped me get good deal

  1. I didn’t get riled up by the reps who tried to incite me.

  2. I waited until the account went to the recovery department.

  3. I timed my negotiation at the end of the month, when reps were trying to meet quotas.

  4. I timed my negotiation at the end of the year, even bigger quotas on the line.

  5. I understood that the bank is a psychotic being and can (and will!) change it’s mind at the drop of dime…..or a few thousand bucks! 🙂

In the coming posts, I’ll discuss how I settled my 2 biggest accounts on December 31st, 2009. Last day of the last month of the year.  Let’s just say, that helped.
Stay tuned. Stay afloat. Wealth and freedom are in your future.
Jonathan

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First Debt Settlement Deal

If you are new to the blog, click HERE to start at the beginning of my story.
POST #18
On Friday, November 27, I made my first call to the Recovery Department. Knowing they would offer a better deal, I was quite optimistic.
As a conquering hero, I picked up the phone like a sword ready to slay my first debt dragon.

St George Slaying the Dragon

In this conversation, I integrated a technique that CRN had suggested – make my story real to the bank. If they see me as a family and not a number, they will be more likely to settle.  I re-told my back story with one addition – Thanksgiving dinner. It went something like this.
“At Thanksgiving dinner yesterday, I was really thinking about my debt.  I am so grateful for my family and I want to do everything I can to take care of them. As I said before, with my mortgage, child care etc”¦really struggling to get by. I want to do everything I can do avoid bankruptcy….”
This may seem manipulative, but it is also true for me.  Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday. It was authentic for me to talk about its meaning and how the imminence of bankruptcy reminded me what I am thankful for. I was sure my authenticity would help my case and make a settlement that day a sure thing. GUESS WHAT!!!!???

IT DIDN’T MAKE A SINGLE BIT OF DIFFERENCE THAT DAY.

But that didn’t deter me.
On 12/2, I finally made some headway.
I offered $5k to settle my $20k line of credit.  There was something different this day. This rep was the stereotypical bill collector. He had attitude and was attacking my credibility. He fired out questions like a machine gunman at a firing line.

  • How much are you making?

  • Your numbers don”™t add up? Who’s giving you money?

  • Why are you paying your other creditors and not us?

bull-dog

Had I been unprepared, I would have crumbled. This rep was like a bull dog.
He DID NOT believe me, nor did he like what I was saying. However, I just stayed calm. Explained my story again, as I had dozens of times before and waited for him to come around.
After 20 minutes of grilling, he finally agreed to take my $5K offer to his supervisor and then…………..play the victorious music…….

He came back on the line and to say his supervisor had approved a settlement for $6924.11, or 35% of the total.

I was ecstatic, though I didn’t let him know this. I couldn’t just jump at the offer because according to my story, I had to come up with another $2K. I thanked him for the generous offer, but said I needed to make a call to see if I could arrange for the additional funds.
In reality, I had saved and borrowed money in advance so that when this moment came I would have funds on hand.  I asked him to fax the offer so I had it writing. True to bullish form, this rep gave me a hassle about faxing a letter.
Hear me when I say this:

Without anything in writing, your verbal agreement is at jeopardy.

If you send in funds without an agreement in writing, they can apply those funds to principal, deny that a deal was cut and hold you on the hook for the balance.  Seems egregious, but it does happen.
After what seemed like hours of haggling, this bull dog faxed the letter. Per our agreement, I called back 2 days later and paid by check over the phone.
This was one of the greatest days of my life. It was a rush and definitely inspired me to move forward with my 3 other accounts. Holy cow! This method really works. I jumped for joy, hugged my wife, called my CRN rep……and then went back to the drawing board.
This was only 1 of 4 accounts and by far the smallest account. I still had another $110,000 to deal with…..but I was optimistic. And for good reason.
Stay tuned. Stay afloat. Wealth and freedom are in your future.
Jonathan

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Debt Settlement Mathematics: 2 + 2 = delinquent

If you are new to the blog, click HERE to start at the beginning of my story.
POST #17
So here I am in the middle of the story.  It’s a waiting game, but not without excitement. The collections calls have accelerated to 3-4 times a day and the letters come 2-3 times a week.
?
I have repeated my story dozens of times to dozens of different representatives.  After consulting with my CRN rep, we decided to pursue one of my accounts more actively because it was accelerated to charge off .
?
The bank normally delays putting accounts into charge off for about 150 days, BUT they have the option of doing it earlier.
?
I kept track of how the accounts were progressing but the rules seemed to keep changing. I’d call on Monday and they’d say I was 120 days late and charge off was in 30 days. Then I’d call again on Friday, 5 days later, and they’d say the account was 143 days late and charge off was in 17 days. If you ask me, that’s funny math…..and we all wonder why our numbers in Quicken or Quickbooks never match the bank’s numbers!  The reps were just playing games to scare me into making a payment. Nice try!!!
?
Regardless of their math, I kept calling every couple of days and kept careful notes. I knew a settlement was imminent. This account had a balance of about $20,000.  I would offer $5,000 as a settlement, and they would counter at $15,000. Every rep said that even if they could get a manager to approve a lower offer, they had never seen a settlement for lower than 60% or in my case, $12,000.
?
That was a BLATANT lie.  Banks regularly make debt settlements for 25%-35%, but each department has certain restrictions. The Collections Department usually can’t go lower than 50%. However, once your account moves to charge off, the rules change.
On November 25, 2009, I made my final call to the Collections Department.
?

WASHINGTON - NOVEMBER 20: A turkey named 'May'...

Then next day was Thanksgiving.
?
I decided to take the day off from calling the bank, knowing that on Friday, I would call the Recovery Department. Truthfully, I was hoping to cut a deal prior to Thanksgiving so that I would have something to celebrate, but it all worked out for the best. In fact, my CRN rep encouraged me to fold my Thanksgiving dinner into the next conversation with the bank.
Stay tuned. Stay afloat. Wealth and freedom are in your future.
Jonathan

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Debt Settlement is like playing chicken with the bank

If you are new to the blog, click HERE to start at the beginning of my story.
POST #16
———————–
REMINDER:  Today is my interview with YourMoneyMattersRadio. Click on the link to locate an AM station, podcast or iTunes radio station to hear the interview.
———————–
So here I am in the midst of my first debt settlement conversation and the rep is trying to get a payment out of me in order to avoid charge off. This scenario had come up in prior conversations with my CRN counselor.
What CRN explained is that making a payment to avoid charge off is like hitting the reset button on the debt settlement process. I am still in debt for the full amount, but now out 500 bones. Even worse, the bank knows they can stronghold me into making payments again. The whole idea of debt settlement is to explain to the bank that you can’t afford to make payments, but you can afford to borrow money from another source to pay off the debt at a compromised sum.
My CRN rep also explained that the bank is MORE willing to settle for a lower amount once the account goes to charge off.  Yes, there was a risk that the bank will escalate my case and take me to court, but this was a small risk since I had been in such close contact with them.
As such, I decided to roll the dice. I ONCE AGAIN told the rep that since I am in a financial hardship, I can”™t come up with $500.  I won’t ask a family member to borrow $500 to only get current on my debt. The loan from a family member was contingent on eliminating my debt with the bank.  Reluctantly, the rep wished me luck and said they would stay in touch.
I want to acknowledge an important point here.  The tide had shifted. I was more in control. The bank was willing to settle. They couldn’t scare me with bad credit ratings and charge off threats. I knew the longer we both waited, the more likely that I would get a lower settlement offer.

Image by Blondie5000 via Flickr

Yes, I was playing chicken with the bank.
thunderbirds
BUT, I felt very confident and informed due to my personal focus, steady education and CRN’s expert coaching.
Stay tuned. Stay afloat. Wealth and freedom are in your future.
Jonathan

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Debt settlement process ripened my debt like a sweet mango

If you are new to the blog, click HERE to start at the beginning of my story.
POST #15
Before I start today, I want to mention that I did a radio interview with Marc Pearlman on YourMoneyMattersRadio. It is set to air on Monday, May 3, 2010 on AM radio, podcasts and iTunes Radio. Marc is a top-notch financial advisor and runs an excellent consulting firm and radio show. Please visit YourMoneyMattersRadio and find out where you can hear the show.
Now back to my story.
After 100 days past due, things started heating up. As they say in the debt settlement business, “The debts are getting ripe.”

Ripe Red Apples - Ready for Picking - Filoli G...
Image by Jill Clardy via Flickr

Essentially, the debt moved to another department whose representatives (salesman!!!) were responsible for cutting settlement deals in the 50%-85% range.
On November 23, 2009 I was 132 days late on one of my accounts.
I called the bank for the 15th time and told them my story. However, since it was over 90 days passed due and the debt had been transferred to a new department, it was time to float the word “settlement”. I took a deep breath before I mentioned that word, thinking it would come at great resistance. I felt like a hospice nurse asking the family if it was okay to “pull the plug” on their dear loving family member. I expected the rep to be outraged by my egregious and forthright suggestion. Instead, the conversation didn’t skip a beat and the rep said we could work something out.
Wow! That was easy…..almost.

Their offer was for 85%.

HUH?

I said that would be impossible but I MIGHT be able to come up with $10K if I can make 3 payments over 3 months. The rep was hesistant and then put me on hold.
I was filled with excitement at the prospect of settling my first account. The fact that they were even considering a debt settlement was amazing!
But……
The rep came back on the line, and instead of addressing my offer, tried to get me to make a payment of $500.  He said if I make a payment of $500, it would prevent my account from going to “charge off” and give us more time to negotiate a deal.
Charge off is when the bank writes off your account as a bad debt and a business loss.  This is seemingly bad for me as a consumer because it hurts my credit rating. However, the ship had sailed on trying to protect my credit rating. I had already come to terms with that reality once I committed to debt settlement. Rebuilding my credit was another task to address once the debt settlement process was complete.  Sorry bank….you can’t lord that over me anymore!  As for making a payment to prevent charge off, that was another story and my CRN rep gave me some advice.

DON’T GIVE IN!!!

CLIFFHANGER!!!!!!
In the next post, I’ll discuss why that is good advice and how it worked out for me.
Stay tuned. Stay afloat. Wealth and freedom are in your future.
Jonathan

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