The following is posted with permission from the author. It is word for word what can be found on Steve Rhode’s site: Getoutofdebt.org. This post is timely for consumers who enrolled in a program to negotiate debt with a debt settlement company – only to later learn the program did not live up to the hype.
If you are in the unfortunate position to have learned you were not well suited to attempt debt settlement as a means to avoid bankruptcy, following the steps outlined in this post may be your best option to reverse at least some of the damage done.
Readers are welcome to give feedback on their circumstance and progress in the comment section below or you can ask questions and get answers from a debt expert by clicking here: ASK CRN.
Steve’s Debt Settlement Company Refund Request Guide:
Here is my definitive guide on how to get out of a debt relief program. Warning, it will take some work, but it can be effective.
I’m going to break this process down in stages. It’s important for you to keep tabs on the items in these stages so get a shoe box, folder or just a special drawer to throw all the documentation in as it comes in or you gather it.
I’m starting with the premise that you are in a debt relief program and want out and have received little to no benefit from the program.
- Start with your debt relief company. Send them a letter by certified mail, return receipt requested.
The postcard you get back will show the name of the company you sent it to, a signature of who signed for it and when they got it.
Explain in your letter that you are unhappy with their services, tell them why, and say you want out of their program and expect a refund paid by X date. Give them at least two weeks from the day you send your letter.
In the letter, let them know that if they do not issue you a full refund you plan to file a complaint with the following people:
- Your State Attorney General’s office. For a listing, click here.
- The Attorney General’s office where the debt settlement company is located.
- Your local Better Business Bureau. You can file a complaint online here.
- Any local consumer affairs office your local county government might have. To see if you have a local office, click here.
- The Federal Trade Commission. You can file a complaint online here.
- Any association the company may belong to.
- You local television station which does consumer investigations.
- If the debt relief company is a law firm or run by a lawyer, file a complaint with the Bar Association in your state and their state. For a listing of state bar association links, click here.
- If your money is being deposited in a third-party escrow account with separate escrow provider, send a copy of your complaint to them. They may be able to help apply some pressure with the debt settlement company and don’t want to work with debt settlement companies that may be harming consumers.
- If you are not satisfied with the response from escrow service provider you can file a complaint with the FDIC against their underlying banks. Click here.
Waive Claims and Hush Money
Some debt settlement companies want people to sign statements they will not speak out against the company or waive any further claim against the company.
If the company has harmed you that seems like an unreasonable thing for you to waive. However only you can decide what is best for you to do when presented with an offer. If you unsure what rights you may waive then find a local attorney licensed in your state for help.
- If the offer is not acceptable or the company does not respond then file a complaint with the people I mentioned above. If sending your complaint by mail, include copies of your original letter and and the return receipt card showing the company received it. Send these complaints by mail using certified mail, return receipt requested.
- Put a copy of all your complaints and proof you mailed them in your special place.
- Send the debt relief company copies of the complaints you send to others as you send them. Send them to the debt settlement company by certified mail, return receipt requested.
- Put all return receipt cards you get back in your special place.
- If you file your complaint online and get an email or some other proof that you submitted a complaint, print that out and put it in your special place.
- Once you file complaints with the folks I listed above, you may notice the debt settlement company is much more willing to refund your money and put this matter behind them. They want to avoid irritating state regulators, damaging their BBB reputation, and becoming the subject of an FTC investigation.
- If you file a complaint with the people above, it may or may not result in a refund to you but it will put the company on their radar for future enforcement activity against them.
- If you still have not received a fair and reasonable refund then contact your local court and find out how to sue the debt relief company in small claims court for your refund. Typically the amounts claimed are eligible to be pursued by individuals this way. And if you go this route all those documents you’ve place in your special place will come in very handy, Take them all with you when you go for your court date.
- If you are not confident to file your small claims suit then find a local consumer advocate attorney here.
- If you have left the debt relief program, remember to still take care of your debt. You can click here to find a local bankruptcy attorney, seek information about credit counseling, or seek out a performance fee based debt settlement company. Regardless of which avenue you choose, just do something. Doing nothing is not a viable option.
If you have paid thousands of dollars to the debt relief company you are claiming has not helped you, while the process above is a bit time consuming and involves some cost, it will be a worthwhile attempt to get a refund.
Most people that follow this process should expect to get a reasonable refund or an entire refund of the fees paid if you file your request before the company files for bankruptcy.