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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Debt Settlement Scoundrels

And the beat goes on…..

How long will it be until Federal regulation appropriately addresses these problems?  Senator Schumer got the ball rolling on April with S.3264 but it didn’t get passed. Hopefully legislation will be under way during the Fall session. In the meantime, we can continue to raise awareness.
Here are a few indicators that change is in the air.
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Debt Settlement Firms Peddle Relief But Actually Put Debtors In Deeper Hole

“State attorneys general from New York to California and consumer watchdogs, such as the Better Business Bureau, say that debt settlement firms”™ proceeds come at the direct expense of financially troubled Americans who are being swindled out of their last dollars with dubious promises, The New York Times has reported.” ….read more HERE
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Be wary of promises from debt relief companies

Millions of Americans are drowning in debt. If you believe the ads “” with their bold claims of success “” a debt relief company will help you pay off your bills for pennies on the dollar.
The ads are everywhere:

  • “Be debt free in as little as 24-48 months!”
  • “Erase debts 50 to 70 percent or more!”
  • “Legally get debt down to zero.”

It sounds so easy……read more HERE
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Stay focused. Stay afloat. Wealth and freedom are in your future.
Jonathan

Wealth of Debt Settlement Opinions

The more I read about debt settlement, the more I realize how much misinformation is flying about.  Since the potential customer for debt settlement is usually in crisis, they are more apt to believe the unbelievable.
PEOPLE! Do your research.
Here is an article I came across that succinctly explains the trappings of debt settlement companies. The author also suggests a simple way to avoid the trappings of debt. Be frugal!!
Check it out.
RIPPING OFF DEBTORS
This guy has a great take on the psychology of debt and money.
Stay focused. Stay afloat. Wealth and freedom are in your future.
Jonathan

Debt Settlement Reform

And the trend continues….
In the coming months, we will likely see more regulation for debt settlement companies.  You can be sure that those companies speaking the loudest against the regulations are most certainly the most egregious debt settlement companies scamming the consumer.
Here are a few articles..

How the Financial Reform Bill Could Affect Debt Settlement

Senator Charles Schumer (D-NY), who previously spearheaded changes in credit card disclosures, is again trying to crack down on abuses in the credit industry. Recently, he introduced The Debt Settlement Consumer Protection Act as an amendment to S. 3217: Restoring American Financial Stability Act of 2010, a.k.a. the “financial reform bill.”
Some predict this legislation could be voted on very soon. We’ll be watching.
The DSCPA would regulate the debt settlement (or “debt negotiation”) industry in two key ways:……to read more click HERE

Debt settlement companies face new rules in Indiana

In a piece for legal information website Lexology.com, law firm Loeb & Loeb LLP said that starting on July 1, debt settlement companies will have to get a $25,000 surety bond. They will also have to present a copy of the bond to the state’s attorney general’s office while making disclosures to consumers in the Hoosier State……….to read more click HERE

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

Debt Settlement Regulation

If you are new to the blog, click HERE to start at the beginning of my story.
I am out of the woods with my debt settlement tribulations. Having successfully navigated the crazy road, I am intent on paying it forward and providing information for consumers struggling with unsecured debt.
One of the biggest aspects to consider is this:

Only 30% of those people enrolling with a debt settlement company successfully complete the program.

That means 70% of those enrolling end up paying fees to the debt settlement company, but never getting out of debt. Obviously the system is broken and something needs to change. The articles below are an indication of what’s to come.
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Debt Settlement Firms: Promises too Good to be True

“…less than one of every three customers successfully completes these programs. At one firm – National Consumer Council, which was shuttered by the FTC in 2004 – less than two percent of customers successfully completed their debt settlement programs.” to read more click HERE
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State attorneys general and consumer watchdog groups say the debt settlement industry takes advantage of Americans whose lost jobs and lost income is pushing them towards bankruptcy, making dubious promises and fleecing them of their last dollars, The New York Times reported Saturday.” to read more click HERE
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Credit Card Debt Settlement Companies Prepare for Coming Regulation

“Owners of debt settlement companies meeting at a Florida resort anticipate major changes to their industry, according to a recent profile in the New York Times. Writer Peter S. Goodman interviewed members of the United States Organizations for Bankruptcy Alternatives, a debt settlement trade organization whose own studies indicate that only about a third of Americans seeking debt settlement successfully complete their programs.” to read more click HERE
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Peddling Relief, Firms Put Debtors in Deeper Hole

“State attorneys general from New York to California and consumer watchdogs like the Better Business Bureau say the industry”™s proceeds come at the direct expense of financially troubled Americans who are being fleeced of their last dollars with dubious promises.” to read more click HERE
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Stay tuned. Stay afloat. Wealth and freedom are in your future.
Jonathan

A Debt Settlement Miracle – Part 2

If you are new to the blog, click HERE to start at the beginning of my story.
POST #31?
Per my conversation with Billy, I called on March 2nd to speak with his manager, Bucky.
While on hold to talk with Bucky, I knew this was the final moment. My last move. Everything I had done for the last 10 weeks had lead to this.
When Bucky got on the phone, I took a deep breath and for the umpteenth time told my story. He listened. Asked all the same questions Billy had asked. I kept my story straight. Explained where the money was coming from and why this was my best offer.
Bucky was very considerate and calm during the call and seemed to really hear what I was saying. He said he would talk to the VP who gets out of a meeting in 2 hours. I thanked him for his time and consideration on behalf of myself and my family. Every time I said those words, I really did get choked up. Even though the debt settlement process does require some manipulation and hard-nosed negotiation, there was a simple truth behind all of this:

I was doing all of this for my family.

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And that was it….my last effort. If Bucky declined my offer, there would be no other option than to scrounge up another $1300 and settle for $9800. Not sure where the dough would come from.
And then…..four hours later my phone rang.
Was this the call? Was this the “DAY”?
It was Billy. I could tell from his tone of voice that he had good news.

” I am happy to say that your offer has been accepted.

Did you hear me?

They said yes!”

I was ecstatic, a bit speechless. I thanked him for his tenacity and sympathy. We both acknowledged that in the past 2 days I accomplished more than I had in the last 2 months. True to form, Billy offered an honest piece of insight. He said he likes working in Recovery because he can really help people.
He really helped me. His willingness to let me speak to his supervisors and managers allowed me to get the deal I needed. Unlike so many reps, he got out of the way. Yes, he was patient and attentive, but his most important role was to NOT interfere with my personal momentum.
He kept me on the phone as we prepped the letter, then faxed it to me. When we got off the phone, I screamed for joy as loud as I could. I ran in to tell my wife! It was a beautiful embrace. We looked into each other’s eyes and she said, “You did it, baby!”
Nope, we did it.
If not for the love of my family, I never would have spent the hundreds of hours of time and energy to go through this debt settlement process.
Here are the final stats:

  • $141,655.56 worth of debt settled for $40,449.11.

  • 28% or 28 cents on the dollar.

This is the end of my deb settlement story, but not the end of my financial recovery story. There are still 3 things I need to do:

  • Loan mod on my 1st mortgage.

  • Settle or loan mod my 2nd mortgage.

  • Build personal wealth and financial security.

More to come…….
Stay tuned and stay afloat. Wealth and freedom are in your future.
Jonathan

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A Debt Settlement Miracle – Part 1

If you are new to the blog, click HERE to start at the beginning of my story.
POST #30?

Mafia spaghetti with seafood and tomato sauce

How do we create an airtight counter offer?  An offer they can’t refuse….not because of the threat of a bloody horse head or anything “silly” like that. More like an offer where the numbers make so much sense that they are realistically un-movable.
Here’s where we stood:

  • Their offer:            $9808

  • My current offer:  $7500

  • My goal:                $8600

After several conversations with my CRN coach, we came up with the silver bullet.
My current offer was $7500. If I deferred March’s car payment of $514, that would bring us to $8014 – payable today.  Then I make an additional payment 30 days from now by deferring my April car payment of $514. Total offer: $8528. I can’t go beyond that amount because:

  • I have already borrowed from EVERYONE I could.

  • I have deferred as many other bills as possible.

  • I can’t defer my mortgage because that would jeopardize the loan mod process.

  • If it weren’t for the loan mod potential, I would just declare bankruptcy and fore-go all of this effort.

NYC - Queens - LIC: 5 Pointz - Roadrunner and ...

There were so many aspects about this offer that made it genius – in fact it was super genius.
I can say this without bragging because I didn’t come up with it –  my CRN coach did. Obviously not her first rodeo. It was exactly this type of creative bargaining that can make or break a deal.
I called Billy in Recovery and made this counter offer. He was impressed by our creativity and resolve, though not AT ALL confident.
He went to the sup and very quickly came back with the same $9808.00 offer from yesterday.
I thanked him for his time and reiterated my intention for doing all of this was 3 fold:

  • To shield my family from anymore hardships.

  • Hold on to my house.

  • Offer a good faith settlement to the bank.

He was again sympathetic.  I asked him to bypass his sup and PLEASE talk to his manager. He agreed.
Two hours later, he called me back to say the manager had denied my offer.
It seemed like I had played my last card. What was left to do?
Then it hit me:

  • Maybe Billy’s compassion for me was a direct result of how I was telling the story.

  • Maybe if I spoke directly with the manager he would “get it” too?

Lucky for me, Billy agreed to make that happen.
Stay tuned. Stay afloat. 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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VISA Settlement Not In Sight

If you are new to the blog, click HERE to start at the beginning of my story.
POST #27
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A woman giving birth on a birth chair, from a ...
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Here we are, 2 weeks into 2010 and I am still flying high from settling over $100K of debt.  It is hard to describe the feeling, but I imagine the relief is equivalent to that of my wife’s when she pushed out our 9 pound son.
Now on to the VISA.
I was prepared for the VISA to be a bit different. First clue was their charge-off schedule was much longer than the lines of credit. I am not exactly sure how they do their math, but they wouldn’t have done well in my 5th grade math class.
Here are a few ways the VISA differs from the Lines of Credit:

  • Jacked up my APR to 29.9% after I was 30 days late.

  • Charge off schedule was much longer.

  • Not at all interested in negotiating until we got to the recovery department.

  • More aggressive phone reps.

1/11/10
I called the the VISA department to make another offer. Current balance was $28K, with a whopping $2500 of fees, penalties and interest.  This was 5 times the amount of excessive charges I experienced on my Lines of Credit.  Scoundrels!
I had been calling them all along, low balling, and they had stone-called me at 50% -$14K.

Ginsu!
Image by Mat Honan via Flickr

Today was no different. The rep wanted 50% divided into 3 “easy” payments of $4671.36.  I wanted to ask if it came with a Ginsu knife set.
Up until now, my offers had been for $7500. However, since I had used some of my savings for the other settlements, I decided to lower my offer to reflect that. In other words, since Visa didn’t play ball (but the Line of Credit department did): they lost out on getting more of my available funds!
This time I offered $5000.  The rep just about laughed at me. My notes showed my prior offers of $7500 had been declined so he knew my offer of $5000 would not fly. I explained that I do have $7500 (in borrowed money) but $2500 is now spoken for with my 5 payments of $500 to the LOC settlement I recently landed.
He said he would submit it, but didn’t look promising. Then he mentioned that my account was 146 days passed due. It was “subject to charge” off tomorrow.
You are probably wondering what “subject to charge off” means. I did, too, so I asked.
Upshot: NOTHING.
It was a scare tactic designed to get a payment out of me. Technically, the bank can charge off the account any time after 90 days   – and maybe even earlier.  So really, it had had been “subject to charge off” for a while now!
We ended the call.
It went on like this for 3 weeks. I’d call, offer $5k, they’d say no but try to get a payment. I’d ask for a supervisor. One wasn’t available, but they’d have him call me back. No one called, so I called back in a few days and started the process again.
We were back in junior high school playing hard-to-get with each other. Everyone knew where this was headed…..yup: the Recovery Department – where the real deals are had.
Again, it hurts your credit. But since I already had 3 accounts hit the Recovery Department, I figured I might as well go 4 for 4 and get a great settlement.
By the way, charge off didn’t happen until the end of February – about 50 days after that rep threatened me that it was “subject to charge off”
Scoundrels.
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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