5 tips for finding the right helping hand for your needs.
Enlisting the help of an outside party for debt relief isn’t easy – you have to trust someone else with your sensitive financial information and trust that they’re going to do the right thing to help you regain stability. So been fears of fraud and concerns over complete incompetence, how can you find a company that you can really trust to do the job you need efficiently and effectively?
Simple. Use these five tips to vet the companies you’re looking at so you know you’re choosing one you can trust…
Fact: Since 2011, debt relief scams have been on the FTC’s Top 15 list of most prevalent fraud cases in the U.S.
Tip No. 1: Check the BBB rating
Any reputable debt relief service provider will be rated by the Better Business Bureau. If a company has an A-rating or better, then they’re probably someone you can trust. But while you’re on the company’s BBB listing page, take some time to look over everything that’s there.
If a company has a high number of unaddressed complaints or has faced action by a state or federal Attorney General’s office, then you definitely don’t want to work with them – regardless of the rating. And of course, if a company isn’t registered at all with the BBB, this should be a red flag, too.
Tip No. 2: Ask the internet
These days, there isn’t much a company can do in the way of bad service without being written up on at least one of dozens of online consumer review websites. So go online, type the company name plus the word “reviews” and see what you get.
Keep in mind that every company is probably going to have at least one unsatisfied customer – that’s just the nature of business. But if a company has bad review rating or there are a number of negative reviews that say the same thing, this should set off some warning bells that you may face the same type of poor service issue.
Tip No. 3: Look for nonprofit / community outreach
There are two types of debt relief providers – for-profit and nonprofit. Which one do you think is more likely to provide impartial service instead of “selling” you their premier relief package?
One problem though, nonprofit debt relief services can’t, by law, brag about how nonprofit they are. As a result, you may not be able to tell at first glance. But even if the company doesn’t advertise their nonprofit status, they will advertise various community outreach and charitable projects that they either run or participate in. So lots of involvement in helping the community is usually a good sign (you are also free to ask about their status when you get them on the phone).
Tip No. 4: Never trust upfront fees
New regulations mean no debt relief company is allowed to charge upfront fees for their service – even debt settlement providers have to settle at least one debt before they can charge you anything. So if a company asks for ANY money upfront, it’s a scam.
Also keep in mind that even reputable companies who charge you fees lawfully should be entirely transparent about the fees you’ll pay over the life of their program and how those fees are rolled into any other payment you make. If a company doesn’t give you a detailed explanation of exactly when and what they’re going to charge you, find another provider.
Tip No. 5: The first call shouldn’t leave you in a cold sweat
At the end of the day, even a reputable nonprofit debt relief service provider with a good reputation won’t be the right company for you if you don’t trust the people you’re working with. This process is about trust, so if it’s not there, then it’s not the right fit.
So talk to a member of their staff to see what the company is about before you enroll in anything. Take advantage of whatever free consultation the company offers to talk to them and get a feel.
First, make sure that whoever you’re talking to is a certified expert and not just a sales person. A certified credit counselor or financial advisor should be handling your consultation, if they’re not, then that’s a good sign that they’re out to turn a profit instead of truly help you. Then it’s a matter of listening to what they have to say and see how you feel. If you get a good read and feel comfortable, then if everything else was in order, this is probably a company that you can trust.