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Have debt worries? Here is how to avoid being swindled.
Have debt worries? Here is how to avoid being swindled.
If you want to get the best help and value for your money when purchasing a product or service to help get out of debt, an educated consumer is always the best customer.
When it comes to debt problems, people are at a disadvantage to protect themselves from scammers. The shame, fear, and emotional distress that money problems can cause seems to disconnect the logical part of our brains and leave us as easy targets for the first person who attempts to sell a quick fix for a difficult financial jam.
Here are 11 easy ways to protect yourself from being scammed. Click or swipe through to check them out...
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A company's website is a great source of some initial clues if you want to dig deeper before enrolling in their program. If the company talks about their years of experience or amazing results, check to see how old the current version of their website is. One place to do that research is here.
In my experience chasing scammers, they get lazy. They will often create a new website that looks like it has been around for a while. They will also list glowing happy testimonials, but a little detective work will show they may be highly suspicious.
Just copy some unique statement from a testimonial that does not include the company name and paste it between quotes in a search engine. Don't be surprised to find a very similar testimonial on other sites. Some or all of them are fake.
For more advice, check out: Protect Your Money From Debt Settlement Scams.
Another way to see how long the site has been around and review the promises they've made to consumers is to visit the Internet Archive Wayback Machine.  It's an excellent resource to take a look back at the company website.
Just put the website URL in the search box. You will want to go back and look at older versions of the website to see if they're even the same company. Sometimes a new scam company will grab a deleted domain name from a different company that has gone out of business. That can make the current company appear older than you think at first glance.
While you're reviewing the company website, see if you can find the address where its staff is physically located. Then do an internet search for the address. Look to see if the company address is actually a mailbox drop or a shared virtual office space.
There is nothing wrong with mail services and virtual offices. But when a company wants money from you for a service, and can't tell you where its big and experienced staff is located, that's a huge red flag. Here is a detailed guide on checking out a company.
Most states have an easy way to search online whether a company is registered to do business there. For example: If you want to see if a company is registered where you live, just plug in the business name and your state in a search engine. You will typically find the online portal for your Secretary of State. Make sure the website you use is the official site for your state government.
If you receive a recorded call offering some type of debt help, and you are thinking of using their services, it's a good idea to ask for a telephone number and the URL of their website to call them back and can check them out. You won't have a clue who you're sharing your information with at first.
The person at a debt relief company that you're talking to is typically a commissioned salesperson who will tell you just about anything to secure a sale. It doesn't matter what they say about the company service - the client agreement you'll be asked to sign is what really matters.
Nearly every client agreement I've reviewed over the years says the written agreement supersedes any verbal statements made by other staff members. Ask for a copy of the client contract to read and review before you agree to anything.
If the salesperson tries to push you to sign an online agreement without giving you a chance to read it at your pace and ask questions, run away.
I actually purchase junk mail from readers and I'm never surprised anymore by the dubious claims and statements made.  These days you may get junk mail that promises an easy loan to consolidate your debt. But don't be surprised if you are turned down for the loan and then the salesperson tries to sell you an additional fee-based service instead. If the sales pitch changes, take that as a warning sign.
Take a few minutes to search the company name and see if you can find any reviews or complaints. But keep a watchful eye open for a company that has a burst of happy reviews. These can just be fake reviews submitted by the company to make them look good.
Look for a mix of reviews over a period of time. The Better Business Bureau is one place to look for reviews, but not the only. These days you can also find debt help company reviews on Google business listings and Yelp.
If your relationship with the company starts to sour and you feel scammed, detailed records of who you talked to and when will be important if you want to file a complaint with the company or other important places. If you've done all your homework and feel like you've been scammed, all is not lost. You can read my guide and learn how to complain like a pro and get your money back. 
When it comes to getting out of debt there is no one-size-fits-all solution. Every person has a unique situation, and you have a duty and responsibility to make sure the solution you select is right for you.
Take some time, do your research, talk to different debt solution companies and then make an educated decision about how you want to tackle your debt. What you need most are facts and an informed decision, not a blind belief in the magical promises made by a commissioned salesperson.
Published by Debt.com, LLC