The NYT kindly published a good article about online debt clearing outfits that are really rip-off operations. So it is time to review this information and look at official websites that provide good advice. Remember: if you are in trouble CALL A LAWYER. If you are only worried, TALK TO AN ACCOUNTANT. I recommend both, heartily.
Tyna Carter, burdened with $25,000 in credit card debt, did not want to be a deadbeat. After looking for help on the Internet, Mrs. Carter, a West Virginia homemaker, wound up in the hands of a sweet-talking “credit specialist” from Texas…
The internet has many scam artists of all sorts. All the ‘no money down’ ads have vanished and were replaced with the ‘free government money’ ads which were all rip offs run by crooks and now we see zillions of ‘get out of debt, free!’ ads.
He claimed his company, Credit Solutions of America, could set her on the road to a debt-free life. But what really happened, Mrs. Carter says, is that Credit Solutions pocketed nearly $4,000 of the couple’s income, a little bit each month. Now they are in a deeper hole than ever.
There is no magic. There are no outsiders who will save us. If one is very deep in debt, one must consult with an accountant and a lawyer. Frankly, I suggest one should always have an accountant even if you see this person exactly once a year. It forces you to keep accurate records of purchases and income.
As for bad debt problems, a lawyer is the only solution.
It is a pervasive problem these days. With the economy on the ropes, hundreds of thousands of consumers are turning to “debt settlement” companies like Credit Solutions to escape a crushing pile of bills.
That is because of false advertising, I fear. They get the impression, this will be free, not cost them money.
As many as 2,000 settlement companies operate in the United States, triple the number of a few years ago. Settlement ads offering financial salvation blanket radio and late-night television.
Many real estate sales people have lost their jobs. So guess who is now working for these organizations? Real estate agents have to go over people’s financial accounts before houses are bought. I have done this. It is horrific, seeing some of the fiscal messes people who want to buy, are in. Like, they have no sense at all about what it takes to take on the responsibility of a property.
Many, many Americans go deep into debt due to health bills. This is a crime…it should never happen to anyone! Reforming our medical system is a high priority. But a huge number went too deep into debt for utterly frivolous reasons. Advertisers and credit card usury agents love to lure people into debt, making it look like fun.
They never show sick people doing this. They always show happy, happy people, overjoyed to qualify for lots of credit. They go on vacations! Build swimming pools! Wear pretty clothes and have no wrinkles. Yes, the road to riches is paved with plastic. When the bills can’t be maintained, then the poor people lured into this vision of plenty are suddenly in a heartless world, hounded by angry calls, demanding payment.
As usual, I visited the Texan two-stepping outfit:
*Individual results may vary and are dependent upon several factors including individual circumstances, creditors’ willingness to settle, successful completion of program and ability to save funds. Credit Solutions Debt Settlement Program does not assume or pay any debt, nor does it provide legal advice or offer credit repair. RED FLAG WARNING!!!! Settlement estimates of 50% are examples of past performance of settled accounts and do not take into consideration our service fees RED FLAG WARNING!!!!! or potential tax consequences. Program not available in all states.ILLEGAL IN NY, FOR EXAMPLE. Read and understand contract terms before enrolling.
Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott has filed a lawsuit against a Richardson debt settlement company, accusing it of defrauding Texans by failing to negotiate settlements with its customers’ creditors. Abbott’s office said Credit Solutions of America Inc. claimed that it “would eliminate its customers’ unsecured debts, such as credit card accounts, in as little as three years.” However, Abbott’s office said an investigation revealed “that the defendant failed to negotiate settlements with creditors for most accounts entered into its program.”
If it sounds too good to be true, it is Madoff calling you on your cell phone. These guys promise the moon and deliver a small rock. When I googled the name of the Texas outfit, I got lots of ‘fraud!’ and ‘rip-off!’ postings. Like with many other online/on TV get rich or escape debt ads, this is just another scam.
Again: if you are in trouble, please consult with the Better Business Bureau or call a lawyer and ask for general information. Also, go to your bank, they often have pamphlets that help. And the government also has this, even post offices used to carry this sort of information. For example: U.S. Treasury – Office of the Inspector General – Fraud Alerts.
Then there is My money.gov:
Beware of Advance Fee Loan Scams
The Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC), a member agency of the Commission, is reminding consumers to be aware of advance fee loan scams.
The FDIC has observed a significant increase in the number of unsolicited e-mails (“spam”) advertising mortgage refinancing, debt consolidation and limitation, small business loans, and special loan programs for veterans and minorities. While some of these e-mails may advertise legitimate loan programs and lenders, advance fee loan scams are becoming more prevalent.
Advance fee loan scams prey on consumers who may be under financial duress and may be seeking quick and easy loan approval and funding. The scam typically involves the lender making false promises to arrange for a loan in return for fees paid upfront by the loan applicant. Scam artists may even design Web sites and online loan applications giving the appearance that the company is legitimate.
Fraudulent logos and letterhead of legitimate financial institutions or government agencies may also appear on documents that are faxed to the loan applicant. Potential borrowers may be asked to provide information through a Web site or be contacted by phone or e-mail by a “representative” who guarantees loan approval as soon as the borrower pays a required fee. The loan applicant may be told that the fees will be used to pay a third party for loan insurance or application processing, or to make the first month’s loan payment. The loan applicant may also be told to send or wire transfer money to an individual overseas before receiving the loan proceeds.
In some cases, the loan applicant has been falsely directed to a legitimate financial institution with no knowledge of the transaction. In other cases, the loan applicant is told that the loan request was declined and is asked to forward additional money to qualify for a different loan program.
The following are warning signs that may indicate a loan offer is not legitimate:
*The loan approval is “guaranteed.” Lenders do not typically guarantee loans before analyzing the applicant’s financial condition, credit history and ability to repay.
*The loan applicant is required to pay upfront fees to a third party or individual. Loan fees are normally paid to a business after the loan has been approved.
*The lender or loan processor may be located outside of the United States.
*Fees are requested using a retail wire transfer system. A password is sometimes used by the overseas receiver to pick up the funds in an attempt to hide the true identity of the criminals and make funds more difficult to trace.
Victims of online advance loan fee scams should report the crimes to the Internet Crime Complaint Center at http://www.ic3.gov/. More information about fraudulent advance loan fee scams can be found at http://www.ftc.gov/bcp/conline/pubs/tmarkg/loans.shtm.
For your reference, FDIC Special Alerts may be accessed from the FDIC’s Web site at http://www.fdic.gov/news/news/SpecialAlert/2008/index.html. To learn how to automatically receive FDIC Special Alerts through e-mail, please visit http://www.fdic.gov/about/subscriptions/index.html.
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