In April 2010, the General Accountability Office issued a 45 page report very critical of Debt Settlement companies, which can be found at www.gao.gov/cgi-bin/getrpt?GAO-10-593T. Common threads among the report are that these companies advertise in all forms of electronic media (TV, radio, Internet) , touting their ability to aid the financially distressed. Also, an overwhelming majority (85%) of companies collected their fees BEFORE settling any of their clients debts (The FTC has proposed banning this practice).

Several companies practiced a policy of monies paid to them for as long as 4 months went only to pay the firms fees BEFORE any monies were used to pay the consumers bills.

Some companies claimed a 100% success rate for their programs. This was contradicted by FTC and state investigations typically showing that less than 10% of consumers are successfully completing these programs.

In the most egregious of cases, when consumers combined the fees they paid to these companies with the settled amounts of the debts, they actually paid MORE than total amount of the original debts.

Lessons Learned

Be very skeptical about responding to a debt settlement organization that contacts you directly (phone, mailing, email, etc.) or advertise as cited in the report

Check with your Better Business Bureau for any complaints, but bear in mind these organizations can be operating anywhere in the country and may not have a Georgia office. It is always a good idea before dealing with any of these companies to google them and find out what peoples experiences have been.

In the alternative, we would suggest you initiate contact with or a local not for profit organization that deals in debt settlement, such as CredAbility.

By Peter Bricks, P.C.

With offices conveniently located in Atlanta, Cumming, Dunwoody, Jonesboro, and Woodstock.