*As always, let me point out I write these blogs for informational purposes based on my own opinions, my 15+ years of experience in the industry helping people navigate the sometimes “complex” world of credit and finance and no two credit issues are the same so I always recommend calling me for more specific information and direction for the best course of action for you and your family, not some company.*
That being said, I do (if you have read previous posts) prefer to write these posts as if we are simply two friends enjoying a cup of coffee, and I keep the talk straight, there’s enough companies out there hoping to sell you all the “secrets the credit companies don’t want you to know” (see previous post regarding this little gem of a lie) to “help” you with all your credit and debt problems… (insert eye roll) So let’s just avoid all that and keep it real & direct. And on that note, let me share something that recently happened and I have been just itching to get to!
Now, this post is actually a little different than previous Credit Associates posts, because this time I was dealing with someone (let’s call him ‘Mike’) that had not only spoken to a CA representative, but had a detailed lengthy conversation with them he even received a CONTRACT for me to review!!! Now, how did he go from receiving a contract from them to talking to me you ask… EASY! Just while simply READING the contract he spotted more than a few rather major lies that certainly did not add up to what the representative on the phone had told him- which after all was all in hopes of getting him to “sign up”.
-Now we all know ANY time you call a company looking for help in some capacity or to sign up for some service you are talking to a salesperson. It doesn’t matter what they call themselves (Associate, Rep, Agent etc) they are a *trained* Salesperson that has quotas and incentives to meet! This is simply the world we live in, and sales and clients make the world go around (as well as their profit margin).
As I said, “Mike” had a feeling things just weren’t quite right, did a little research and came across me and previous posts and knew giving me a quick call would likely confirm any suspicions he may have had. During our first quick convo I asked if he would send me the contract to look over, assuring him I would not post it or any personal details, and Wow! It was like a gold mine!
For this post (Part 1) I am going to simply give an overview of the Credit Associates ‘Agreement’, and point out the little “gotchas” that an average person who hasn’t been in the industry over 15 years would likely not understand (they do that for a reason) or would just skim over thinking it was “normal”. *Again, read my disclaimer at top of post that these are my opinions* to avoid any legal hawks swooping down at me!
Unfortunately, but fortunately for companies like this, consumers call them when they’re in distress, and when you are emotionally drained you are more susceptible & compromised to believe when anyone tells you they can help just sign up and let’s get started. After all, we just want to be DONE with it. And Salespeople absolutely know this!
>Now, agreement in hand, the first thing I see in their Client Enrollment kit states the following, “the key points discussed in our initial Consultation are summarized here as well as incorporated into the attached agreement.”
*The one thing that I’ve always said I personally hate about this company is the direct lies that they tell customers. The customers are told on the phone that “in order for us to get settlement offers for you when you’re”current” on your account is you have to stop making your payments. (We’ll go into this in more detail later but it’s super important) and in the contract itself it explicitly states that you the person signing the agreement has been told that they didn’t tell you to do that. Now there’s really no other way to spin this one it’s A DIRECT LIE.
Now don’t get me wrong, there’s many customers that contact Credit Associates, Freedom Debt Relief or National Debt Relief (probably the 3 biggest) and the customer is already behind on payments, and it’s because of this that it makes the whole settlement process easier to begin.
>Now, a question I get a lot about this company and others like Credit Associates is: “ is this company a scam?” Well, I always ask them, to define for me what their definition of a scam is… because, at the end of the day, Credit Associates, National Debt Relief, Freedom Debt Relief, to name a few, are legally registered companies, they have employees, they pay business taxes so they are legitimate operating companies. *People then see all the fine print in contracts and think, “that’s a scam” But I point out to them, “Well have you ever looked at a cell phone contract? Everyone knows fine print is necessary but never works to your benefit you just need to make sure that certain sections in the contracts don’t take away what the salesperson told you to get you to sign up.”
And that’s where I am always seeing problems with this company! I know that approximately a year or more ago in Credit Associates commercials (both TV and radio) used to say, “If you have more than $5,000 there’s a secret the credit card companies don’t want you to know” that was the initial line that started me down this rabbit hole in particular, since it’s a bold face LIE! (there is no actual “secret”, but more on that later)
Well, they have just within the last year or so changed that number to $10,000. Why do you ask? Well if we crunch the numbers, I was initially under the impression they charge a 20% fee on top of whatever discount they get you. But this contract shows me they actually charge 25%. Example: if you owe $10,000 and if they got a 50% discount for you then you would pay $5,000 to the bank (that could be in one payment or a breakdown of payments) BUT…. you then have to add the 25% which was their “Success” fee to the numbers. So if we add 50% Which is what you’re paying + 25% obviously that’s 75% which means you saved $2,500.
Does that sound like a deal to you? Overall the number is decent but I don’t know anyone that thinks 25% is worth it! Call me crazy, but I’ve certainly never charged anyone that amount and I think that number is a little ridiculous, personally.
But most likely the reason why they bumped it up to $10,000- I guess their Finance people realized there is either too much work and too little pay for people coming in at only $5,000 so they need to bump it up to $10k in order to profit the amount of money they want to profit off of customers. Profit Margin once again!
I find it interesting in their example of their “Success fee” in their contract they still state $5k even though they post on commercials “if you have a minimum of $10,000” So I assume no one told their Legal Eagles to update contract,It’s minor yes, but to me still deceptive.
>In that same section I found their “guarantee”. It seems their “guarantee” is you will save at least 5% of your total debt balance.
I’ll be honest with you, I was scratching my head on this one, because if you were delinquent you could literally call yourself and ask for a 10% discount and they would give you a 10% discount without even blinking, so I’m unsure why they would post such incredibly small guaranteed amounts but you’d have to ask those higher-ups on that one.
I would think if they’re so confident and if all those reviews that they post on their website are 100% legitimate then they’d have more confidence to post a higher number.
Heck i tell people i can help and get a 50% discount without even blinking but im greedy and always want even more of a discount.
(I noticed researching other big companies post something very similar which raises my eyebrow, maybe it should yours too?)
*Now, one thing I do like about this company, or should I say at least I can appreciate, is once you sign a contract there’s something called the “Right of Rescission” – where you have 3-5 business days (depending on the state you live in) to cancel the agreement and not be out any money. \
This company actually offers a 10-day timeline to cancel this agreement once they accept it in writing. Now reading into it a little bit more, once they accept your contract they state that they will mail you a confirmation letter (which we all know that the post office could take 5 + days) but should still give you more than enough time to rush and sign the cancellation page on the back and email it or fax it to them. *If you ever do decide to cancel if you mail it it’ll never get to them in time for the 10 days and then that might be a problem emailing it whether it’s your email or you send an email through a friend or family members computer something where you can document is always the smart thing to do.*
>Back to agreement!
Client & Company Obligations:
Now this section I think is pretty “standard” and pretty simple BUT there are a few things that make you scratch your head on some insight to how they plan on treating you.
-For the client portion, you obviously have to maintain open and honest communications with them, return paperwork to them when you get it signed, return phone calls when they call you, all of that obviously makes total sense.
But here’s another quick “gotcha” IF you write one of the creditors names on that list BUT you then decide, “Hey I’m just going to do this myself” you still have to pay the company their 25% “success fee”! Which is pretty shocking, but they do say “unless the company has no involvement in obtaining that settlement offer otherwise client understands that “companies guidance, experience, advice, support and service surrounding the receipt of the settlement offers is valuable and important.” (Pretty much all creditors you put on list are they helped if they mentioned it, so boom they helped! And you have no documented proof they didn’t so pay them)
Now for the company obligation:
There are the basics that they’re going to hold and maintain confidential information on you, respond to you back within a reasonable time frame, doesn’t define what time frame “reasonable” in their opinion- but reasonable is relative.
*A part that concerns me that says “client specific creditors may include amounts that require the client handle a negotiation directly with the creditors in which case the company will assist the client. -Now if the bank or creditor will only deal with the client I’m not really sure how the company is supposed to help if they’re not allowed to be on the phone call with them, which means your doing it yourself but it says “clients participation in this still means the company earned their fee”. So I guess at that point they’re stating that if we gave you advice we’re still entitled to 25%. I could be reading that wrong but I don’t think so.
This is the section that basically says all offers will be presented to the client for review of acceptance. But again there’s also a section that says “if the company has not received a communication from you the customer within 48 hours that they provided the notice clients direction to accept the settlement will be acted upon by company.”
Now I personally read that as, they send you out notification of a settlement offer, you get busy with life or God forbid something happen with a family member yourself and you cannot respond then *They’re accepting the offer on your behalf after 2 days (even though many companies allow you several weeks to consider the offer).
I’m not saying this may not be standard protocol for the industry, but personally I don’t want some company saying “yes we can pay this account” with my money without me actually saying yes or no. Again, call me crazy right?!
>Now this was a very broad stroke of the “Agreement” and I plan on getting into more later but I just want to end with the Most Common Complaints I receive from clients of Credit Associates & companies like it..
“Client understands that their credit rating will be adversely affected should client default or be delinquent in their payments to their creditors.”
“Client understands that this program will not improve their credit score.”
*This is a common question that gets asked by people because they are under the impression that by paying this debt off, it’ll actually improve their credit BUT it’s a double-edged question. (More details later, suffice to say, yes obviously paying something you havent “can” improve but it doesn’t happen overnight and other factors are involved)
“ Client agrees that company has not provided them with any advice or recommendations either orally or in writing, regarding reduction or termination of payment to creditors and that company has been engaged for the sole purpose of debt settlements.”
“ Client hereby confirms that client has not been advised by company to stop making payments to clients creditors”
This was the one that made our friend Mike in the story really, really mad because and I quote from his email to me “this is so COMPLETELY FALSE!” the Rep told me that is exactly what we need to do in order for them to help. *I think you guys know the answer to that one- which unfortunately is just a part of the sales game.
Now these companies may have at the corporate level have all the best intentions, but like any company, each department tells you what you can or cannot do with a wink of the eye, (which is not an acknowledgement that can be shown in court or proven).
So my standard disclaimer because I never want people to think I’m just picking on companies like this because don’t get me wrong they do help some people but I’m kind of a cheap individual and value my money so I want to keep as much of it as much as possible and I’m assuming if you’re researching & reading this you feel the same way.
I always tell people feel free to call me or email me. My email address is:
Wayne @ Wayne the credit guy. Com
and it’s spaced out to prevent spam, or click on the contact us portion of my website and give me a call, tell me your situation and I will tell you what’s in the best interest of you and your family not the best interest of some company.