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Author Amara Etter is currently doing her higher education in finance & business. She focuses on finance, business & technology. She is also good at swimming and music.
Credit cards maxed out, interest charges stacking up — debt is up to your eyeballs and gaining fast. It’s becoming so bad even the minimum payments are getting hard to scrape together each month.
You need help.
However, as if the situation isn’t already precarious enough, legions of predacious individuals are out there eager to turn your dream of a better tomorrow into even more of a nightmare today. Happily though, there are also some good debt relief organizations around who will work for your best interests.
The trick is finding them.
Read: How To Get Out of Debt Forever
So, how do you go about evaluating a debt relief company?
Does It Have Industry Affiliations?
The leading watchdog organization for this industry is the American Fair Credit Council (AFCC). This association of professional consumer credit advocates defines, promotes and enforces industry best practices for debt relief providers.
The AFCC was formed to advance the goal of maintaining an industry in full compliance with the regulatory initiatives of the Federal Trade Commission. Members must adhere to a strict code of conduct and agree to abide by all laws and regulations relating to debt adjustment and debt settlement services.
In other words, if you see an AFCC logo, you know you’re probably dealing with a reputable firm.
Keep in mind though, it’s fairly easy to cut and paste a logo into a website. Check with the AFCC directly to confirm memberships.
Does It Have Positive Third-Party Reviews?
Entities such as Trustpilot and HighYa compile information like Freedom Debt Relief reviewsto help consumers determine how a company is perceived by the general public. These sites feature testimonials by lots of people discussing their debt relief-related experiences.
Read: Monthly Bill Tracker – See These 5 Tools
Does It Have Formal Complaints?
The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB)was put into place by the federal government — along with a list of legal checks and balances defining the parameters within which legitimate debt settlement companies must function.
One of the key pieces of advice the bureau offers is to check with the Office of the Attorney General in your state, as well as your local consumer protection agency, to see if any cases have been filed against companies you’re considering.
You can also query the CFPB directly regarding complaints.
Does It Have Up-Front Fees?
The Federal Trade Commission outlawed this back in 2010. Debt relief companies can only impose fees after they’ve successfully settled debts on your behalf. If a company is trying to get you to pay for this service beforehand, it’s out of compliance with the law.
Nefarious organizations try to get around this with a variety of charges such as signing fees, administrative fees and consultation fees. The best companies are confident in their ability to earn by providing you with the service you need, rather than loading you down with ancillary fees.
Does It Have a Proven Track Record?
You’re looking for a company with at least five years of history behind it. This is enough time to have worked with a wide variety of creditors and established a reputation. You need someone whose calls will be taken seriously. This gives you a much better chance at achieving an outcome with which you can comfortably live as soon as possible.
Evaluating a debt relief company based upon these criteria will help you find an effective organization that will put your needs first. While there are no guarantees in the world of debt relief, you can maximize your chances of settling your debts for less than you originally owed by choosing a reputable program in which to enroll. Do your homework before signing up — falling for false promises will only leave your finances in a mess.