I have seen and heard lots of advertising by companies saying they can settle my debts for very little and help me avoid filing bankruptcy. Does this work?Read Now
Unfortunately, debt settlement falls under the “if it sounds too good to be true, it is” category. While I am sure there may be a few success stories from people using these companies, I have yet to personally hear of one. Instead I have heard many complaints from clients who have wasted thousands of dollars on these “settlement” plans before having to turn to bankruptcy because of lawsuits and garnishments. Read the Federal Trade Commision's report on the subject here.
The problem is most people cannot afford to pay enough monthly to settle each credit card debt before at least one of the credit card companies file suit, obtains a judgment, and attempts garnishment. Also, if you can afford to save enough to do this, you could settle your credit card debt on your own without paying the high fees these debt settlement companies charge.
Speaking of the fees, remember that even though these companies may call themselves “non-profit” and a few may technically qualify under the tax laws (this is apparently being questioned by the IRS), it does not mean they are a charity. These companies are clearly making lots of money. Why else would they be multiplying like rabbits and how else could they be buying all of that advertising?
Many people think they are saving their credit by using these debt settlement companies. If your credit score has not already been significantly lowered before you use one of these companies, it will be by time you finish (which I have yet to see) or drop out. Settling for less than the amount owed is a negative on your credit report in itself. Add to that charge offs and judgments from the card companies that are not settled early and your credit score will show tremendous damage. A bankruptcy’s effect on your credit would be very similar and allow a quicker recovery.
A bankruptcy may or may not be the answer for you, but do not buy the hype of these debt settlement companies and fall for their anti-bankruptcy propaganda. Do your research on these companies by checking with the Better Business Bureau and educate yourself about bankruptcy by getting your free copy of my The Alabama Bankruptcy Book by clicking here.
Filing for bankruptcy is a heart wrenching decision. On the one hand you want to do what you promised your creditors you would do, but on the other hand you have to house, feed, and clothe your family and yourself. There is no question that bankruptcy should be the last resort, but as to whether you should file or not, my classic lawyer answer is “It depends.”
First, we need to look at why you are considering filing bankruptcy. The most common reasons are the following:
If your answer to any of these questions is “Yes”, then it may be a good time to see an Alabama bankruptcy attorney. This does not necessarily mean you should file bankruptcy, but it does mean you may need some legal advice. The attorney may suggest some of the following alternatives to bankruptcy:
If any of these alternatives allow the possibility of a LONG TERM solution, then they should be greatly considered even though it may call for tough decisions and hard work. Why? Although bankruptcy can be a “quick fix”, it comes with some serious long term consequences to your financial future.
The bottom line is I and many other Alabama bankruptcy attorneys offer free initial consultations, so it will not cost you anything to see what your options are. If after talking to an attorney, you think you can dig yourself out of the hole you are in without bankruptcy then definitely try that. But, if it does not work out you will be prepared and should have a plan.
If you have further questions regarding this or other Alabama bankruptcy, debt, or budgeting questions please email me.
I am an attorney located in Cullman, AL. I practice extensively in the area of consumer bankruptcy law, that is, I file Chapter 7 and Chapter 13 bankruptcies for individuals. I handle cases all over North Alabama and have helped hundreds of clients through the bankruptcy process., I receive many referrals from former clients and their families and other attorneys. Why? Unlike other firms, I have a local office. If you are from out of town, we have the technology available to keep your traveling to a minimum. Also, unlike many firms, you will meet personally with an attorney, not a paralegal. An attorney will handle your case from start to finish. ,