YOU’VE probably seen a lot of these ads: “Settle your debts for pennies on the dollar!”, “Reduce your debts legally without filing bankruptcy!” “Stop bill collectors now and pay them only what you can!”
Are all these just exaggerated claims? Or are any of these ads true? How can you protect yourself from being scammed?
If you’ve accumulated a lot of credit card and other debts and have found it difficult to make your payments, perhaps you would like to find a way out of debt without having to file for bankruptcy as much as possible. After all, bankruptcy is often a last resort for most people when no other options exist. But how do you know who to trust before giving anyone your hard-earned dollars?
Unfortunately, bad things happen even to good, honest and decent people. And when you are in a situation where your bill collectors are hounding you day and night for payment, you may be tempted to accept the first offer of help from someone who comes along although you may not really understand what you are getting into.
FACT: Debt settlement companies are everywhere, often telling you things that are not true. You see them advertising in newspapers, on TV and on the internet.
I am sorry to say but a lot of these companies are “scams” for lack of a better term. They will tell you whatever you want to hear and making promises that they can’t keep.
Once you hire one of these debt settlement companies, your phone will never stop ringing and they have no way to legally protect you because they are not attorneys (although a lot of them lie to you and claim that they are somehow affiliated with law firms). Don’t believe a word of what they tell you and be very careful especially if this is a company that you have not met with face to face. A lot of these companies are out of state and once they have your money, you may not hear from them again.
Does this mean that all debt settlement companies are dishonest? No, that’s not what I’m saying. But you need to be very careful as there are a lot of unscrupulous and deceitful companies out there who want to take advantage of your misfortune. Before you hire a debt settlement company, make sure that you understand the agreement that you are signing. Over the years, I have heard hundreds of horror stories from clients who have put their faith and trust in a debt settlement company who made a lot of big promises that they could not eventually deliver. They charge large up-front fees before they do any work and in a lot of cases, they don’t explain to you exactly what services they will be providing.
Most of them also do not tell you that the credit bureaus will still report your accounts as “late” on your credit report. Thus, if your credit will be ruined anyway, wouldn’t you just be better off filing for bankruptcy so you can get out of debt much quicker without spending so much money?
This doesn’t mean that debt settlement is not an alternative to filing bankruptcy. In some cases, it is better than bankruptcy if settling your debts is the best way to protect your assets without having a bankruptcy on your record.
Remember, however, that settlements are only available on unsecured debts like credit cards, medical bills and department store cards, auto repo and foreclosure deficiencies. Also, you may need to file bankruptcy right away if there is an immediate threat to your property or income such as a lawsuit, wage garnishment, bank levy or foreclosure.
And If it’s going to take more than 12-18 months to negotiate settlements with your creditors, in most cases, bankruptcy might be the better way to go. In such case, you might want to seek the advice of an experienced bankruptcy attorney who can evaluate your situation and help you decide what is best for you.
For a free attorney consultation, call Toll-Free 1-866-477-7772. We have offices in Glendale, Cerritos and Valencia.
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None of the information herein is intended to give legal advice for any specific situation. Atty. Ray Bulaon has successfully helped thousands of clients in getting out of debt. For a free attorney evaluation of your situation, please call Ray Bulaon Law Offices at TOLL FREE 1 (866) 477-7772.