As consumer debt continues to spiral out of control, debt relief is fast becoming a major concern for many Americanís. In 1999, Americanís made $1.1 Trillion worth of credit card purchases. In 2001, American credit card debt hovered around $690 billion. Unfortunately, in todayís unstable economic conditions, many Americanís are being forced to turn to credit cards as a way to extend their income. Consumer debt is at an all-time high and Americanís need to know what they can do to get out of debt. Often, consumers are seeking the services of professional debt settlement companies to help regain control of their finances. However, prior to making such an important decision, it is important to fully understand who you are doing business with.
The most important thing you can do when making the decision get help with your debt related problems is to be an informed consumer. It is absolutely critical to do your research. Do not rush into things; this can cause more harm that good. Prior to signing on with any Debt Settlement company, make sure you ask the following questions and consider their responses:
* How much does the service cost? For example, many debt settlement companies request that you pay your first three to four months of payments to them and set aside nothing for debt settlement. You want to choose a company that allows you to beginning saving for settlement from the day the program starts. A company that does this will most likely have your best interest in mind.
* Does the Debt Settlement Company you are considering report to any of the three major credit bureaus about your enrollment in their program? Traditionally, debt settlement companies do not report to credit bureaus; however, I have heard of a few that do. Creditors will normally elect to report derogatory information on your credit report, but the debt settlement company you do business with should not.
* Does the company offer any type of service guarantee? If so, what is the guarantee? If a company can not get settlement on your debt, you should never have to pay a fee, or the fee should be fully refunded. Additionally, steer clear of any debt settlement company that promises a quick fix to your debt related problems or tells you that debt settlement will not have a negative effect on your credit. Upon enrolling in a debt settlement program, your credit score will probably get worse before it gets better. This is a minor price to pay for being given a substantial debt settlement and not having to file for bankruptcy! However, it is important to realize that if you want to maintain a "good credit rating", you have to pay you bills on time; anything else will cause your credit score will suffer.
* Does the debt settlement company you are considering have IAPDA certified debt arbitrators? IAPDA certified debt arbitrators possess a solid understanding of the laws governing the Debt Settlement industry and fully understand your current financial situation.
* Does the debt settlement company you are considering offer any type of bankruptcy assistance should debt settlement not work out for you? For example, some debt settlement companies will offer a refund of some of the program costs to help pay for a bankruptcy attorney of your choice. Of course, the funds would have to be paid to a licensed attorney and not directly back to you. Again, a company that does this will most likely have your best interest in mind.
* Does the debt settlement company you are considering belong to the local Chamber of Commerce? If so, is the Chamber an accredited member of the Chamber of Commerce of the Unites States? This type of affiliation will help ensure that the company is conducting business in a proper manner.
* Is the debt settlement company you are considering a member of the Better Business Bureau? If they do not advertise this, you can always inquire with the BBB first. The BBB is a great way to determine if the company has a list of prior complaints. Any company with more than a few complaints per year is a company that you do not want to do business with.
Alan Barnes IAPDA Certified Debt Arbitrator
President and CEO of Debt Regret