Last month, we explored the different methods that people can begin to eliminate their existing debt. While it’s true that many people are drowning, there is still hope and there are many companies out there that can kick-start someone’s journey to a debt-free life.
Here, I’ll cover what I think are the most important criteria that you should be paying attention to when choosing a debt settlement company to work with.
The problem with debt settlement companies these days is that for every person that is in debt and looking to get out, there seems to be 2-3 debt settlement companies that are knocking on the door ready to lend a helping hand make a profit.
With so many services and companies out there, choosing a reputable company to work with can be a very tricky and frustrating ordeal. Needless to say, the number of reliable and reputable companies are few and far in between.
Remember to do your research and check the reviews on what the customers are saying. Here is an example Regal Assets IRA review of what you should be looking for. The review needs to come from a neutral point of view otherwise, it is biased and its not going to help you.
Before I list the marks of a good debt settlement company, I think that it’s important to state that these programs can often take several years to complete. Along the way, you will experience many bumps and challenges, but as with anything worthwhile, the final destination is definitely worth the price that you have to pay.
Take a couple seconds and imagine a life without debt…Did you just crack a smile? I’m sure you did. I guess what I’m trying to say is that it CAN be done and you’ll be glad you did it. All you need is a little motivation and some due diligence and you will be on your way to financial independence in no time.
So how do you choose a debt settlement company that is right for you?
An Accredited Member of TASC
TASC or The Association of Settlement Companies is an organization that lobbies on the state and federal levels in order to promote best practices for the debt settlement industry. They also act to protect the interests of consumers by providing transparency, financial literacy, and by providing an accreditation system. This means that you can search for an accredited member and be assured that the accredited debt settlement company has been rigorously review by a third party and is compliant with the TASC ByLaws.
The advantage of leveraging an organization like TASC is that you will severely limit your risk and dramatically improve your overall experience.
A Member of Better Business Bureau (BBB)
Another third party website that you should reference before choosing the right debt settlement company is the Better Business Bureau. It has been around since 1912, and like many of you who are addicted to YELP, I consider BBB as the Yelp for businesses. The reason that I find it so invaluable is that consumer feedback/complaints seems to play a major role in their rating system.
Like TASC, the BBB also acts to promote best practices within the marketplace and is an effective tool against the many frauds and scams that are out to get your hard earned dollars.
Making the decision to get out of debt is a stressful decision in itself so you shouldn’t have to deal with negative and non-empathetic people. Sometimes, when you’re in so much debt it can be so easy to feel alone and overwhelmed, but if you have people on the other end of the phone line that can “hold your hand” and encourage you, it makes the whole process so much easier to deal with. I would recommend spending some time in TASC and BBB just to read consumer reviews or complaints about a particular company that you are considering. I also think that it’s a good idea to call them first and ask for some general information and rate how your experience was on the phone. Questions you should be asking yourself are:
- How long did you have to wait?
- Did you actually speak to a human being?
- Were you satisfied with all their answers?
- Was the person on the other end “pleasant” to talk to?
The more that you know and understand then the more you are protected from frauds or bad deals. As you interview different companies make sure that you understand everything. Make sure that they fully explain all their disclosures, their contracts and their fee structure. Pay special attention to companies that front-load fees. If you ever decide that the company is not for you, then those initial fees will be added to the total amount you owe. So do your homework and make sure you understand what you are getting into.
Going the Extra Mile
Lastly, I’d like to mention some intangibles which are tipping points on whether I would work with a particular company or not. As kids, employees or business owners, we’ve often heard that attitude is everything. If you look hard enough, you can often tell how a business’ attitude is by the way that they handle their customers and in the extra effort that they put in. For example, I think that if a debt settlement company has a financial education aspect on their website (some have blogs about industry news and personal finance) then they get a +1 in my book. Also, some companies will even have 24/7 support for current clients. Again, this isn’t really necessary and this is going above and beyond but I think that the value and peace of mind that is being provided to consumers speaks volumes about a particular company’s attitude.
There isn’t really an exact science when it comes to determining extra effort but if you feel like a particular company stood out from the rest, then there’s a good chance that they are paying attention to details and are implementing sound business practices and that they are looking to build long-term relationships–which is definitely something that fly-by-night scam operations are NOT looking to do.
How have your experiences been? Do you have any particular companies that you would recommend in a heartbeat? What criteria did you use to pick the debt settlement company that you worked with?