Photo courtesy of  Flickr

Photo courtesy of Flickr

So you’re in over your head in debt and you’d like nothing more than to be relieved of some of the pressure. Heeding the advice of a debt settlement lawyer can be a great way to ease some of that burden, but how do you know which one to pick in a sea of available options? Below are some of the signs that your chosen debt settlement service is the right one:

The company has an excellent reputation.

If your chosen debt settlement company is registered with the BBB, or the Better Business Bureau, you’re off to a great start. An accreditation from the AFCC or the American Fair Credit Council doesn’t hurt, either. You can perform a search of the company with the National Association of Attorneys General, as well as your local consumer protection agency. If your service ticks all of these boxes, you’re on the right track. You should also check into any consumer complaints made against the company on file. If they have been involved in any lawsuits with regulators or have been charged with unfair or deceptive practices, then it’s in your best interest to find another option.  

The company does not charge you upfront.

Debt collection services are prohibited from charging you for anything upfront. If your debt settlement company tries to or did charge you a fee, or perhaps pressured you into making a “voluntary contribution”, dump them. Some debt settlement services charge a maintenance fee monthly, but the very best ones only charge performance-based fees in which you would not shell out a single cent if the company is not able to successfully settle your debt. Carefully familiarize yourself with what the company asks of you, the terms of settlement, and the monthly payments you need to make. Some companies may encourage you to open a separate bank account; remember that any funds you put into that account are still yours and that you are entitled to any interest on them, as well as the ability to withdraw them whenever you wish.

The company gives you all the facts.

A good debt settlement service should tell you the amount of money you have to save before it speaks to a creditor on your behalf; they will not withhold this information. They will also be open and honest with you about all of the fees they charge, as well as the terms and conditions.

The company does not make promises they can’t keep.

There are scammers out there, and a lot of them prey on good, honest people during a moment of weakness. If something sounds too good to be true, like a promise that your debt can be settled within just a few months, or that all your debts can be erased for an unrealistically small fraction of what you owe, then it probably is. Watch out for debt settlement programs that guarantee that the company can erase your unsecured debt, tell you to stop talking to your creditors without explaining the consequences of such an action, tell you that they can put a stop to all collection calls and prevent you from being sued, or talk about a “new government program” that can bail out your personal credit card debt. Always do your research and be vigilant.

The company provides you with adequate guidance.

While it’s always a good idea to educate yourself beforehand, a company that also offers you guidance on how to best settle your debts and keeps you in the loop and updated is a blessing in itself. Seek a company that has a team of professional, knowledgeable financial advisers and arbitrators that can talk to you about any concerns you may have in a language that you understand and are comfortable with. It helps if they’re accredited by the AFCC, as above, or the International Association of Professional Debt Arbitrators or IAPDA.

Struggling with debt can be difficult, but it doesn’t always have to be. Choose an honest and reputable debt settlement service, and you can finally breathe easy and be able to make better financial decisions for yourself and your loved ones.