How to Terminate a Debt Consolidation Program

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In our debt forum, we read horror stories from people who have signed up with a debt consolidation company to help them get out of debt only to have their credit ruined. Even with a lot of the really bad companies going out of business due to litigation, there are still that many more waiting to take advantage of you and your bad situation.

Statistics show only one in ten consumers lured into a debt settlement plan ever actually becomes debt-free. This makes the risky scheme the No. 1 threat facing the most deeply indebted Americans, says a consumer alert issued last year by the nonprofit National Association of Consumer Bankruptcy Attorneys.

Tips When Looking For a Debt Consolidation Company

If you are looking to sign up for a debt settlement program through a debt consolidation company, you need to be wary of organizations that:

  • Charge high up-front or monthly fees for enrolling in credit counseling or a Debt Management Program (DMP).
  • Pressure you to make voluntary contributions or another upfront fees.
  • Refuse to send you free information about the services they provide without requiring you to provide personal financial information, such as credit card account numbers, and balances.
  • Try to enroll you in a DMP without spending time reviewing your financial situation.
  • Offer to enroll you in a DMP without teaching you budgeting and money management skills.
  • Demand that you make payments into a DMP before your creditors have accepted you into the program.

For more information on what is illegal per FTC guidelines, read our article entitled Debt Consolidation Rules and Regulations.

Before Engaging in a Debt Management Program

If you suspect that your debt management/debt settlement company may not be delivering on their promises, check your bills to make sure the organization fulfills its promises as far as the monthly fees and any money being taken out of your checking accounts. If you are paying through a Debt Management/Debt Settlement Program, contact your creditors and confirm that they have accepted the proposed plan before you send any payments to the organization handling your DMP.

What if the Debt Management Company Has Gone Out of Business?

What happens to your debt settlement program if the company that managed your debts shuts down? A counseling agency that is going out of business may send you a notice telling you that your DMP is being transferred to another company. Or it may tell you that you need to take some action to keep your financial recovery on track. If a government agency has filed an action against your debt management company, you may get a notice from a third party. If you discover that the organization handling your debt management is going out of business you need to:

  1. Contact your bank to stop payment if you are making your payments through automatic withdraw.
  2. Start paying your bills directly to your creditors.
  3. Notify your creditors that the organization handling your debt is going out of business. Consider working out a payment plan with your creditors yourself. Ask if they will give you a reduction on your interest rate.
  4. Order a copy of your credit report. Check for late payments or missed DMP payments that may result from the company going out of business. If you see “late” notations you don’t expect, call the creditor immediately and ask that the notation be removed. Understand that they have no obligation to do it.

If payments are late because the organization handling your debt management has failed to make scheduled payments, the consequences can be just as devastating as if you failed to make payments to the DMP. If you do not act quickly to make arrangements with your creditors, you could incur late charges that increase your debt, lose the lower interest rates associated with the settlement, and have late marks on your credit report.

Another thing to do is to immediately pull out of the program and contact your existing creditors and see if you can work out a plan with them to make payments on your own in one of their hardship programs. If you do not act quickly to make arrangements with your creditors, you could incur late charges that increase your debt, lose the lower interest rates associated with the settlement, and have late payment notations on your credit report.

Getting Your Money Back

Unfortunately, most people don’t read the fine print on the contracts with the DMP companies. According to this blog post, Confessions of a Debt Settlement Company Worker:

“The contract actually states that the company is not responsible for any negative repercussions due to their enrollment in our program. It also stated we could cancel a client without a refund at any time (which happened a few times in a year), and that if a client canceled we were still due our year’s worth of fees no matter what. Money that we were practically guaranteed because we drafted directly from the client’s checking accounts. No person in their right mind would sign this contract if they understood what it meant.”

Even if your credit report doesn’t have such scurrilous language, you may still have to threaten the DMP with legal action, reporting them to your local attorney general’s office, the FTC, or the Better Business Bureau.

Fix the Damage to Your Credit Report

Once you have negotiated with your creditors, you can begin the process of credit repair. For details on how to do this read our free credit repair articles.

You can also try to see if a lawyer might take on your case and see if they know of any class action lawsuits that are currently in progress against your DMP Company. NACA is a great website to visit to find a good attorney.

Good luck to you, and don’t file bankruptcy. You can get through this.

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