The hidden dangers of credit settlement.
Many people have heard about credit settlement (also known as debt settlement) from advertisements on TV where credit settlement companies promise to settle your debt for a fraction of what you owe. But most people don't know exactly how debt settlement works or – more importantly – how it can backfire.
What is debt settlement or credit settlement?
Credit settlement is a way of getting creditors to settle your debt for less than what you owe. Under a credit settlement plan, you'll stop making payments to your creditors, allowing your accounts to become delinquent over several months. During that time, you'll make regular payments to a credit settlement company who will then negotiate on your behalf with creditors, encouraging them to settle your debt for a lower amount.
Does debt settlement work?
Sometimes it does – and sometimes it doesn't. Your creditors aren't obligated to settle your debt, and if you stop paying your bills regularly, they may add extra penalties, send a collection agency after you or sue you for the money you owe. Ultimately, this could cause you to wind up even more deeply in debt.
Does debt settlement affect your credit?
Absolutely. Whether your attempt at debt collection settlement is successful or not, your credit rating will be seriously damaged for years to come, and you may not be able to apply for credit cards, get loans, buy a car, or take out a mortgage for a long time.
Is debt settlement a good idea?
Generally, no. There are other strategies for paying off debt quickly that can be just as effective and that can help you improve your credit rating rather than ruining it.
Get advice on credit settlement from ACCC.
When you're deeply in debt and considering a credit settlement arrangement, it's a good idea to talk to the financial professionals at American Consumer Credit Counseling (ACCC) before you sign anything. As a nonprofit organization dedicated to helping consumers get out of debt, we provide free credit counseling along with low-cost financial services designed to help you understand all your options and make the wisest decision.
Credit settlement vs. debt management.
At your free credit counseling session, our professionally certified counselors will help you evaluate your financial situation and explore the alternatives for getting out of debt. For many consumers, we recommend a debt management plan over a credit settlement arrangement. With debt management, you won't stop paying your creditors, so your credit rating won't take a dive. Instead, you'll make one payment every month to ACCC, and we'll use that money to pay your creditors on your behalf, helping to make your financial life easier and less stressful. We'll also work with your creditors to seek reductions in interest rates, late fees and even monthly payments, helping you to pay your debt off more quickly. Most consumers on a debt management plan can become debt free within 60 months.