Tuesday, 6 March 2012

Debt Reductions Companies in Canada – Do Your Due Diligence

When making a big ticket purchase like a vehicle, you do your research right? You check the history of the vehicle, ensure it has not been in accidents, learn about the ownership, check the maintenance record for the vehicle and more. Your personal finances are no different and if you are in financial trouble, before choosing a company to help you, you really should do the same kind of research. 

“The banks are offering a program that’s about to run out” or “time is running out on Federal Government Programs”; sound familiar? Debt reduction companies are spending hundreds of thousands of dollars on advertising per/year to sell you on this message. The question is; is it true? And do they “really” help? Is there really a program that all of the banks collaborated on and is time running out? Is it true that the Federal Government programs that help Canadians get out of debt could end in the near future? And…what do they do anyway? Let’s get to the bottom of it.

First of all; all of the banks have not gotten together to offer a debt reduction program, hence time is not running out; because it simply isn’t true. The only Federal Government programs that help Canadians deal with debt are administered under the Bankruptcy and Insolvency Act (BIA). The Federal Government has made no announcement that there is a plan to eliminate the BIA legislation and there is no other Federal Government program that we are aware of that helps Canadians get immediate, legislated, debt relief. Seeking debt relief under the BIA does not mean that you have to go bankrupt and Federal Government programs are a viable means to get out of debt when a financial crisis emerges. The BIA offers different remedies to deal with debt, but the principal program offered by debt reduction companies doesn’t even involve relief under the BIA.

Debt reduction companies collect money from you on a monthly basis over a period of years with a promise that in the future they will settle your debt. By way of contrast, debt consulting companies represent you and provide you with a range of options to deal with debt that could include a consolidation or even enrolment in a credit counselling or Federal Government program. Debt reduction companies have one primary goal and that is to collect your money on a monthly basis. This is where the money that they use to advertise to you comes from. The Financial Consumer Agency of Canada (FCAC) recently issued a consumer alert about debt reduction companies; you can view the alert here http://news.gc.ca/web/article-eng.do?nid=649969.

Before you deal with a debt reduction company, do your due diligence. While writing this article we took some simple steps that any consumer who has access to a computer can take to research a company; the results really scared us.

We visited the first debt reduction company’s website and there were many red flags. First, there wasn’t any information about the company’s ownership. Are they Canadian? American? Who is their president and what does he or she stand for. The company publishes no information about their ownership whatsoever. Red flag #1!

We Googled “who owns [company name]” and nothing came up. Red flag #2!

We went to Linkedin and ran a search by company name to see how many professionals on Linkedin are employees of the debt reduction company. The only profile that came up was an individual page branded for the company – not one employee and not a single name of anyone associated with this company emerged as a result. You would expect that a company that bills itself as a national provider of debt reduction services would have at least one employee with a profile on Linkedin; the world’s largest professional networking site. We would liken this to you not knowing a single person who has a Facebook account. Red flag #3!

Finally, we searched “[company name] reviews” and on the first 3 pages of Google we found no less than 6 pages by companies who represent people and individuals themselves who reported very serious claims about this debt reduction company. Red Flag #4!

Don’t believe everything you hear! Ads are paid for by the advertisers, companies pay the BBB to be members and any company who doesn’t wilfully and publicly provide information about their corporate structure and ownership, may not be a company you should commit to paying hundreds of dollars per/month for years to come.  When it comes to debt reduction companies do your due diligence.

For more information about debt reduction companies and how you can do your due diligence please call DebtCare Canada at 416-907-2582 or visit www.debtcare.ca

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