So Many Bill Consolidators
Perform a "google" search for bill consolidation, and more entries will pop up than could be investigated in a lifetime. So, how does one go about finding the best consolidator? It's a little like trying to find the best toothpaste - there are thousands out there, and all of them advertise their benefit, but, short of trying each and every one, how will you decide?
First, understand two things.
- There are "scammers" in every profession, and none is more susceptible to them than credit/debt "healers." There is no product to return if defective or not as advertised; there is no FDA to force a "recall" if one of them is "dangerous to your financial health." Because they are based in all parts of the country and because business is usually conducted by phone and email, chances of a debtor ever meeting his consolidator are minimal. There is only you to investigate, but investigate you must.
- Debt consolidation companies are not in the business simply because they love mankind and want to alleviate suffering (though many are genuinely committed to helping others). They have to eat, pay their bills, and raise their families too.
Questions to Ask a Bill Consolidator
When you begin your discussions with a potential consolidator, do not be shy. You must ask questions. In this instance, not being face-to-face can be a blessing. People who are normally non-assertive in person can sometimes muster up this quality on the telephone.
- Ask the consolidator to outline the complete process for you. Exactly, step by step, what will he be doing? A good consolidator will be able to explain this without hesitation.
- Ask the consolidator how long he has been doing this? "Practice makes perfect" is as true in this business as any other. The more experience the individual has, the more methods he has developed to complete the process successfully.
- Ask for references. A good consolidator will have a list of satisfied customers who are willing to act as referrals for him. This is tricky, because they could be "trumped up," however; it is one important step in getting a total picture.
- What will this cost? The service is not free, and fees may vary a great deal. As in anything else, the cheapest is not always the best, but by the time you have "interviewed" several, you will begin to get an idea of appropriate fees. Most will charge a percentage of the total debt to be consolidated, but some have flat fees. If the consolidator will not give a straight answer regarding process or fees, hang up.
- Ask if the company belongs to any credit counseling/consolidation associations. Verify these memberships. Check with the state Attorney General's office and the Better Business Bureau regarding any complaints filed.
A Final word About Fees
If a consolidator asks for a fee up front in exchange for the promise of great bill consolidation loan
, don't take the bait. No consolidator can promise a "great loan" until he has all of the details of your debt and until he has spoken with your creditors.