I have $40,000 enrolled in a debt settlement program. I am getting calls from an attorney's office. Did I make a mistake?
I have about $40,000.00 in credit card debt. My husband has about $16,000.00 last August "I" entered into an agreement with a program called Yellow Brick in regards to Debt settlement. who told me that they could settle my debt in about 42 mos give or take for about 30-50%. as it is w/in the first 12 mos of the program obviously nothing has happened yet. I am getting calls from an attorney's office/ collection agency in GA in regards to the largest one which is about $18,000 and have never missed a payment although my name is primary on the loan and we are both working 2 jobs each to pay towards these (hopefully) settlements. I understand my credit will be trashed after this process... I am terrified of losing my home which has been refinanced about 20 mos ago to combine the original mortgage and a home equity loan. at this point I am climbing the walls and wondering if I should just pull out of the program and do it myself or keep going and hope and pray that it works out. Prior to entering into this agreement I spoke with several CCCS services who wanted about $900+ a month and also an attorney who gave a figure of $1300.00/mo with a Chapter 13 as we did not qualify for a Chapter 7. Any suggestions on what to expect would be appreciated. I thought I did all my due diligence but now I am not so sure.
A lowered credit score and nerve-wracking telephone calls from collection agents are common for debtors at this stage of a debt settlement program. My answer below explains why this is so.
I will not comment on the company (Yellow Brick Debt Settlement is not familiar) you mentioned because I have no experience with it. For the benefit of other readers, see the Bills.com resource Reputable Debt Settlement for a checklist of items to look for when choosing a debt settlement company.
Debt settlement at a glance
Debt settlement, also called debt negotiation, is a process by which creditors agree to forgive a part of a balance, saving the debtor up to 60% of the original balance. The debtor pays the new agreed-upon sum. A debtor can negotiate directly with creditors or hire a debt settlement service to negotiate for you. In most cases, professionals will have better results negotiating a settlement than consumers. The pros know how much each creditor is willing to settle and what terms they will agree to. They also know which creditors will not settle debts.
A reduction in total debt is the biggest benefit of debt settlement. If debt is so large that you cannot pay it off and are facing bankruptcy, this is a less harsh option. Although your credit will be dinged, it will not be as severe as it would be with a bankruptcy.
Credit card debt settlement is probably the most common debt settled. However, any unsecured debt can be settled, including medical bills, payday loans, deficiency balances, department store accounts, gas cards, and other personal loans. Mortgages, car loans, and other secured loans cannot be settled because they are backed by collateral that the creditor can claim. Federal student loans also cannot be settled.
How debt settlement works
In a debt settlement program, the debtor stops paying creditors in the plan. Instead, the debtor makes a monthly deposit into a special-purpose account. As this account grows, either the debt settlement professional or the debtor approaches each creditor to begin negotiating a settlement on the debt. Negotiations begin about 180 days after the date of first delinquency when the creditors move the accounts from current to non-current status. A debtor's credit score will suffer during the time when the accounts are unpaid, but will rebound after settled.
A creditor may try to collect the non-current account itself, ask a collection agent to attempt to collect on the debt, or sell the account to a collection agent. Some collection agents are law firms.
Third-party collectors are known to be more aggressive in their collection tactics than original creditors, so collection calls can become persistent or even threatening. Thankfully, the Fair Debt Collections Practices Act has rules governing the behavior of collection agents. However, unscrupulous debt collection agents do not follow these rules.
A creditor may decide to file a lawsuit against the debtor. This is not a frequent occurrence, but it is within a creditor's rights and a possibility about which you should be aware. If a creditor sues a debtor, the court will likely issue a judgment in the creditor's favor. Depending on the local state's laws regarding the enforcement of judgments, the creditor may be able to garnish wages, levy bank accounts, place a lien on property, or take other action to enforce a judgment. See the Bills.com resource collections advice to learn more.
It is important to make routine deposits into the special account. A primary reason for people failing in debt settlement programs is their failure to make deposits into their special accounts on a regular basis. If you are settling your accounts yourself, it is important to stay in contact with the creditors after the 180-day point to keep the lines of communication open for negotiation. At some point the creditor will be open to negotiate the debt. It is up to the debtor to seize the moment and make a lump-sum settlement on the account. Average settlement amounts vary from 40 to 60 cents on the dollar.
Be aware that creditor customer service representatives are specially trained to convince debtors to not settle an account. Creditors have every incentive to divert debtors from trying to settle a debt and instead enroll in a "debt management plan" (DMP). A DMP will cut the interest rate on the account but make no concession on the total balance. DMPs are great for creditors, but offer little value for debtors.
If you are working with a debt settlement professional, stay in contact with them and review your online account information (or call a customer service representative) to learn the status of your accounts. If you are threatened with a lawsuit convey this information to the debt settlement professional immediately so that they can focus their attention on negotiating a resolution to this account.
Debt settlement is usually the faster and cheaper means to debt freedom, as compared to credit card counseling or making minimum payments. It offers a relatively low monthly payment and avoids bankruptcy. The trade-off is a lowered credit rating in the short-term, and enduring collection calls.
If you are considering debt settlement, visit the Bill.com debt savings center to get no-cost, no-obligation quotes from pre-screened service providers.
I hope this information helps you Find. Learn & Save.