Debt Settlement Pitfalls May Outweigh the Advantages
Americans have too much debt. Of that, there is no doubt. The nation, as a whole, owes something on the order of three trillion dollars. This is debt that accrues interest at rates that average nearly 20% per year, and that interest provides no real benefit to consumers. For the average debtor, the interest is simply money that they are throwing away. With credit card debt that averages ,000 per household, Americans are drowning in financial obligations. Obviously, if consumers could pay off these debts, they would, but the more the debt increases, the harder it becomes for the consumer to pay it off.
As always, there are companies that offer to come to the rescue, claiming that they can negotiate a deal with your creditors that will allow you to pay only a small portion of your obligations. That sounds like a good deal - if someone can make half of your debt go away, why not use their services? If it were that simple, there would be no reason not to call a debt settlement company, but as always, things are not as simple as they may seem.
No creditor is going to simply agree to take less than the amount they are owed if they have any reason to think that they can be paid in full. In order to tip the scales in your favor, many settlement companies will urge their clients not to pay their bills and not to contact their creditors. By deliberately having you fall behind in your payments, the settlement firms hope to persuade your creditors to settle. This may work, but it will also hurt your credit score. Even if you do settle, your settlement will be noted on your credit report as a partial settlement, which will hurt your score.
Here are some things to consider before doing business with a debt settlement company:
Ask about the fees and ask for a list, in writing, of how much the fees will be and what they will be used for. Make sure that you understand what funds will be used to pay your debts and which are fees that go to the settlement company.
Watch out for companies that guarantee results, especially if they make bold statements such as "We can save you 50% or more." There is no way to guarantee that your creditors will negotiate.
Be suspicious if you are advised not to talk to your creditors.
Be suspicious if you are advised to stop paying your bills, as this can negatively affect your credit report rather quickly.
It may be possible to negotiate with your creditors yourself. Before you pay someone to do it for you, give your creditors a call and tell them that you are having trouble making your payments. They would probably rather work with you to get some payment than see you file for bankruptcy, which would leave them with nothing at all.
About the Author: ęCopyright 2006 by Retro Marketing. Charles Essmeier is the owner of Retro Marketing, a firm devoted to as affiliate marketing and informational Websites, including End-Your-Debt.com, a site about debt consolidation, credit counseling, payday loans and personal bankruptcy.