Consumer debt continues to increase and many consumers find themselves looking for any way out of what seems to be an impossible hole. Unfortunately, one option that many choose is bankruptcy. Another is hiring the services of a debt settlement company. If you're over your head in debt and are considering a debt settlement company's help, ask the following questions as you shop around:
- How much does the service cost? If the service costs more than you can reasonable afford, you'll simply be signing up for more credit problems in the future. If, during your comparisons, you find that you cannot afford any of the companies' prices, don't just grit your teeth and pick one; by all means, explore other alternatives.
- Does the debt settlement company report to the three major credit reporting agencies? Don't take anything for granted; some do, but some don't. If they do, your credit report will show you as having negative accounts with your creditors, but also that you're doing something about it. If they tell you that debt settlement won't negatively affect your credit, you should take a few moments to seriously consider just what else they may be lying to you about. In the short term, using a debt settlement- or credit counseling company could very well make your credit score worse. Eventually, however, it will improve. As the debt settlement company reports your positive actions month after month, they'll become a first step in boosting your score.
- Does the company offer any type of service guarantee? If it does, what is the guarantee? If the company cannot negotiate a settlement on a debt, you should not have to pay a fee, or the fee that you paid should be refunded.
- Does the debt settlement company employ IAPDA-certified debt arbitrators? International Association of Professional Debt Arbitrators-certified members understand the laws governing the debt settlement industry and should easily be able to grasp your financial situation.
- Does the company offer any type of bankruptcy assistance if debt settlement does not work out for you? Some companies will refund some of the program costs to pay for a bankruptcy attorney of your choice. If they do offer a refund, they'll pay the refunded amount directly to your designated attorney, not to you. A debt settlement company that offers this option is probably a reputable one that has their clients' best interests in mind.
- Is the company that you're considering a member of their local Chamber of Commerce? If so, is their chamber an accredited member of the United States Chamber of Commerce? This affiliation can help ensure that the debt settlement company conducts its affairs properly.
- Is the debt settlement company a member of the Better Business Bureau? Most companies will advertise this affiliation. If they don't, check for complaints that may be on file with the BBB. Any company with more than a few grievances per year filed against it may not be operating with good business practices and should probably be avoided.
Finding a good debt settlement company can be very important if you're under a heavy burden of debt. There are good companies out there, but there are just as many (if not more) disreputable ones. Take your time, do your research, and choose wisely.