First off, let me be clear that I’m not against all companies that advertise heavily on television. I think the Slap Chop is a wonderful idea, and I’ve often yearned to “set it and forget it.” When it comes to hiring a company to settle your debts, however, it’s a mistake to hire someone on the basis of a television ad.
For years I’ve watched TaxMasters advertise tax settlement programs on daytime television. Before them, I’d see JK Harris. At the same time, serious looking men and women would perch on stools against white backgrounds and tell me they could settle debts for pennies on the dollar.
Though ABC reported on accusations against TaxMasters of deceptive business practices by the attorney generals in Texas and Minnesota, the company kept chugging along with a blitz of TV ad spots.
Now that TaxMasters has filed for bankruptcy with a scant $50,000 in assets and a whopping 5,000 creditors, I’m betting someone else springs up in short order.
It seems as if there’s no shortage of people lining up to hire these folks.
If You’re In Debt, You’re An Easy Target
It sucks to be in debt. You’re scared, confused, and the solutions offered to you sound oh-so-wonderful. Settle your debt! Combine the bills into one easy monthly payment. Modify your mortgage in the blink of an eye!
Dig a little deeper and you’ll notice that most of these companies have been around for about 4 hours, give or take a few minutes on either side. They accept your payment over the phone, assure you that there’s no downside whatsoever, and that they’ll handle everything for you.
They get away with it by offer you solutions that seem to require no thought, no knowledge, and no interaction with you. If life were that easy, don’t you think these companies would be featured on every news program rather than having to saturate the airwaves? And if you could get out of debt by snapping your fingers, why would anyone in their right mind pay their bills?
No Real Solution Is Simple
If you’re looking at a reliable and reputable credit counseling agency, you’re going to need to spend some time working on a budget. That budget’s going to be matched against the amount you’re going to need to repay your credit cards. It the numbers don’t work, the credit counselor can’t help you.
In addition, credit counseling won’t help with all debts. Taxes, student loans and mortgage, for example, won’t get rolled into the payments. So if you’ve got those, credit counseling isn’t for you either.
Bankruptcy involves a balancing of your interests against what the creditors need. Depending on your situation you may need to go into a Chapter 13 repayment, or your Chapter 7 might be complex. You may need to give up something, whether it’s property or simply time and energy.
You Get What You Give
In life, as in debt, you get out of something what you put into it. If you put a quarter in the machine, you get a cheap toy in a plastic egg. If you’re looking to resolve tens of thousands of dollars in debt – tax or otherwise – you should expect to do some legwork.
Again, this isn’t a rant against companies that advertise on television. Rather, it’s a call to action. Spend some time investigating the solutions offered to you. Make phone calls, and ask questions – lots of them. Do your research. Because once you make a decision, it’s your life – not someone else’s.
Your future and your family depend on it.
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