UK consumers who are struggling to pay their bills are often forced to turn to debt management companies for help. But with debt management companies becoming big business and desperate consumers looking for help, there are a number of unscrupulous businesses out there that will do nothing but take your money and provide little, if anything, in return. How are you supposed to know the difference between a good and a bad debt management company?
There are two types of debt management companies – companies that are for profit and companies that are non-profit. There are also two types of non-profit debt management companies – companies that charge consumers but that do not carry a profit and organizations that provide debt management services for free. Any and all of these types of debt management companies / organizations may provide worthwhile and reputable services, but as a consumer, you must understand how services work and look into contracting with the best company for the job.
Debt management companies are also sometimes called debt reduction companies, debt settlement companies, or debt consolidation companies. Some provide only basic debt reduction or elimination services, and some provide additional services based on customer need, charges, and the amount of debt. In general, a debt management company will help consumers reduce and / or eliminate only unsecured debt such as credit card debt, installment debt, and, in some cases, student loan debt.
Contracting with a reputable debt management is crucial to ensure that you are protected throughout the process. Debt management companies rarely make any solid guarantees and they are not liable for your debt. So, ultimately, you may be left open to further collection by your creditors, wage garnishments, and even court filings. You must understand how to reduce your debt without further damaging your credit and ending up in bankruptcy court.
Stay away from debt management companies that offer a quick fix. In many cases, it takes several years to complete a debt management program. Also, it is important to research whether or not a particular debt management company is experienced in working with your particular creditors. Contracting with a debt management company that is capable of managing only a portion of your debt will leave you with a significant amount of debt that you must manage on your own. And even if the companies that do agree to work with your debt management company agree to hold off on any further collection activity, your creditors that do not agree to work with your debt management company may still file legal action and force you into court to deal with that debt and the debt that you have agreed to eliminate as part of your contract with the debt management company. The end result may be that you will still owe the debt management company their fees even though you are forced to go to court to deal with all of your creditors.
Contract only with a debt management company that gives you a detailed plan regarding how your monthly payments will be disbursed to your creditors. Once that debt management company has discussed your options with your creditors on your behalf, the debt management company should come back to you with a plan that details how much you need to pay each company each month. Based on those figures, you will be required to submit a monthly lump sum to the debt management company. From that monthly lump sum, which should also include any fees that the debt management company charges for services, the debt management company will pay your creditors. You should know exactly how much each creditor will receive each month, on what day that creditor will be paid, and you should be able to follow the progress of your payments. Get everything in writing.
Investigate the fees that each company charges. A debt management company may charge fees based on how much debt you have, how many creditors you have, and / or a figure that is a percentage of your total debt or monthly payments. Either way, know the fees in advance and get them in writing. Companies that charge high upfront fees may be a scam.
Finally, do not trust a debt management company that promised to fix your credit. Although reducing and / or eliminating your debt will help you clean up your credit rating and score, debt management companies are not capable of removing any negative information from your credit history.