Contact 13 Consumer Alert
Local man has warning for those looking to clear their debt
Las Vegas, NV (KTNV) -- Are you drowning in debt? A lot of companies out there claim they can fix your credit. But a warning tonight, it turns out you don't have to shell out big bucks to find financial relief.
You see the signs everywhere advertising help for credit repair and debt settlement. There are plenty of people who can relate to them.
"I lost my job and we found out our house was upside down $250,000," explained David Stern.
David lives in Summerlin and is a perfect example. Back in 2009, he and his wife found themselves struggling to make ends meet.
"I had a choice when I got laid off. Pay the credit cards and try to keep my credit up, or try and keep a roof over my head. So I was trying to keep the house," said David.
But in September of that year, they were forced to short sell their home after failing to modify the loan. On top of that, the bills from his six different credit cards were piling up. So in 2011, David decided to call a local debt settlement company for help.
"He knows everything about credit and how to fix it and he knows just what to do to get your credit score back up. That sounded good to me," said David.
David signed up and filled out some paperwork. As part of the deal he agreed to pay more than $1,600 in two payments. In exchange, they would negotiate with his creditors trying to reduce his debt and in turn David thought his credit score would improve. But they wanted David to understand one thing.
"What she told me is, we need time, we need to be calling, we have to be negotiating with them," said David.
So David waited and waited and waited and about five months went by with no word. That's when David decided to call and find out what was going on.
"We're still negotiating. And I said ok, can you call me and let me know," said David.
But David says he hasn't seen any results. Now, more than a year later, nothing has changed. He has lost $1,600 and he is still in debt.
"They didn't do anything. $1,600 may not be a lot of money to some people, but it's a lot to me," said David.
Unfortunately, David is not alone. A lot of people fall into the same trap paying large fees for little or no action. Experts say it's the people who can least afford it who fall victim to bad credit repair and debt settlement companies.
"Understand, they're trying to sell a service. They're going to tell you whatever it takes to close the deal," said Michele Johnson.
Michele is with the non-profit Financial Guidance Center. She says you need to realize your credit can't be fixed overnight.
"You can't think somebody has this magic bullet that's going to remove information that's current and accurate from your credit report. The only thing that can correct it is time," said Michele.
If you do decide to hire someone, remember, it is illegal for any credit repair organization to collect a payment before they've fully performed a service.
In David's case, he is not protected by the law. He actually signed a contract handing over limited power of attorney for help with debt negotiation. His contract states he is not eligible for a refund. But Michele wants everyone to know this is a service anyone can do on their own.
"There's no reason to pay for credit repair. They can do nothing for you, that you can't do on your own, for free," explained Michele.
David says that is the lesson he has learned.
"Now that I"ve done my homework. I'm going to fix my credit on my own. I feel kind of embarrassed that I was dumb to pay this company," said David.
So here is the Contact 13 bottom line. Do the work yourself. You can call creditors yourself and negotiate. If you have lost your home or your job you have the ability to post a statement on your own credit report explaining the reason for the downturn in credit.