CHICAGO, IL – April 27, 2011 - Offers to help consumers out of debt are extremely tempting in troubling economic times. The Better Business Bureau (BBB) advises consumers to know the differences among the heavily promoted action plans, including debt negotiation, debt settlement and debt elimination. Without understanding the differences, consumers could end up making their financial situation worse, warns the BBB.
“Consumers are bombarded every day with ads and e-mails offering services to manage or reduce debt. It is hard to know what offer may work for them, let alone if the company can be trusted,” said Steve J. Bernas, president & CEO of the Better Business Bureau serving Chicago and Northern Illinois. “Families in debt may think their situation can’t get any worse. However, not understanding the differences among debt negotiation, consolidation or elimination firms can actually lead to increased debt and even bigger worries.”
To help consumers understand various options for dealing with debt, the BBB offers a brief explanation of debt negotiation, consolidation and elimination services and tips on finding help to deal with debt:
Debt negotiation companies claim that they will negotiate with a consumer’s lenders to lower the total amount of debt owed for an upfront fee. Unfortunately, some consumers who paid for debt negotiation services found out that the company never contacted their lenders. Instead, the firm took the consumers’ money and disappeared as a business. Another caution is for consumers to keep talking directly with their lenders and not succumb to the belief that debt negotiation companies have everything under control. Too often consumers end up slipping deeper into debt. Relying on debt negotiation firms could also put a dent in a consumer’s credit report.
Debt consolidation companies offer to group together various debts allowing the debtor to make one lower payment to the company, rather than many payments to the different lenders. While debt consolidation can make paying monthly bills more manageable, consumers should be aware that some companies tack on high fees and charge exorbitant interest rates. These mean the consumer is paying much more in the long run for the convenience of a single, reduced monthly payment.
Companies that offer debt elimination rely on many different schemes, but they all hinge on the notion that credit lines are illegal. Debt elimination companies typically provide, for an upfront fee, a document for the lender that supposedly absolves the consumer of the debt. Unfortunately, the document has no bearing whatsoever on the debt owed and consumers paying for such services have found that they’ve wasted money on a debt elimination scheme that would have been better spent on actually paying back their debts.
Before enlisting the help of a business to manage debt, the BBB offers the following advice for consumers:
· Always check the company out first with the Better Business Bureau. BBB Business Reviews on debt negotiation, consolidation, and elimination companies are available online for free at www.bbb.org
· Stay in contact with lenders and try to work out a plan with them first before enlisting outside help.
· Start with a credit counseling service. Credit counseling services are often nonprofits that offer financial guidance for a small fee, or at no cost. To find a credit counseling service for free go to www.bbb.org
· Beware of offers that sound too good to be true. There is no easy fix for reducing debt and any company that makes huge claims and guarantees, probably can’t deliver.
For more advice and referrals on dealing with debt including how to manage a budget, go to www.bbb.org