Using a debt settlement company can be a viable option for those struggling with significant unsecured debt. It’s critical to understand the potential risks and implications involved.
In the light of overwhelming debt, finding an exit can often seem daunting. This is where debt settlement companies step in, offering a lifeline to those sinking under heavy financial burdens. But what exactly do these companies do, and are they the right choice for everyone? Let’s delve in.
- What Are Debt Settlement Companies?
Debt settlement companies are firms that negotiate with creditors on behalf of debtors to settle their debts for a lower amount than what is owed. These companies charge a fee for their services, typically a percentage of the amount of debt being negotiated. They offer an alternative to bankruptcy, which can have a longer-lasting negative impact on one’s credit score.
- How Do Debt Settlement Companies Work?
The process usually begins with a consultation where the company evaluates your financial situation and the nature of your debts. If you choose to proceed, they will advise you to stop paying your debts and instead start depositing money into an account they manage. Once enough money has accumulated, the company reaches out to your creditors to negotiate a settlement, using the lump sum of money you’ve saved up to incentivize the deal.
- The Potential Benefits
The main advantage of using a debt settlement company is the potential to reduce the total amount you owe, thus providing an escape route from overwhelming debt. Furthermore, having professionals handle negotiations can be less stressful than negotiating directly with creditors.
- The Risks Involved
Debt settlement is not without risks. The process can negatively impact your credit score as non-payment of debts (a strategy used while accumulating the settlement sum) can lead to late fees, penalties, and potential lawsuits from creditors. There’s also no guarantee that the negotiations will be successful, and you may still have to pay the company’s fees even if a settlement isn’t reached.
Moreover, not all types of debts are typically settled by these companies. For example, secured debts like mortgages or car loans, student loans, and other specific types of debts are usually outside their purview.
- Choosing a Reputable Company
If you decide to use a debt settlement company, ensure it has a good track record, is transparent about its fees, and is accredited by recognized industry associations like the American Fair Credit Council (AFCC) or the International Association of Professional Debt Arbitrators (IAPDA).
Debt Settlement Companies…
Debt settlement companies make some bold promises, often boasting in their advertisements that they can help you settle your debt for just pennies on each dollar you owe. But before you choose to work with a settlement company, it’s wise to get some objective opinions about debt settlement companies and to better understand the pros and cons of debt settlement versus other strategies for paying off debt.
How Debt Settlement Companies Operate
To help you get out of debt, debt settlement companies will advise you to stop paying your bills to creditors. Instead, you’ll pay money each month to a savings account managed by the settlement company. After several months, when your accounts are significantly overdue, the settlement agency will make a debt settlement offer to each of your creditors, offering to pay off your debt with a lump-sum payment from your savings account. Ideally, the amount you’ll pay is significantly less than the amount you owe. Creditors may accept the offer if they believe it is their best option for getting some money from you.
If the creditor accepts your offer, you’ll pay a fee to the debt settlement companies – usually 25% of the amount you saved. You’ll also pay taxes on any amount that was forgiven by your creditors. But if the offer from the debt settlement companies is not accepted, your creditors may choose to turn over your account to a collections agency, which can be a nightmare. Or they may sue you for the amount you owe plus interest, penalties, and legal expenses, adding even more to your debts.
How does debt settlement affect your credit and is debt settlement bad for your overall finances? Well, whether your debt settlement offer is accepted or not, the fact that you have stopped paying your bills for months will significantly damage your credit for years. You may not be able to get a credit card, take out a car loan, rent an apartment, or buy a house for years to come. That’s why it’s important to understand the potential risks of debt settlement before talking with debt settlement companies.
Experts Strongly Advice To Take The Debt Management Route…
At American Consumer Credit Counseling (ACCC), we offer free credit counseling and low-cost financial services designed to help you get out of debt quickly and plan to live debt-free in the future. As a nonprofit organization, we offer objective advice about debt settlement companies and debt settlement vs bankruptcy vs. debt consolidation. At your free credit counseling session, our professionally certified counselors can help you better understand how debt settlement companies work, and what other options you have available to you for managing your debt. Take this first step in your journey out of debt – contact us today for a free counseling session in person or by phone.Get Your Personal Debt Solution Plan