Today, I want to talk about two things. First, I’ve been meaning to share where people can find reviews of our 4 Pillars Victoria office. And second, I want to talk about what you need to know about debt consultants (also called debt counselors or debt settlement consultants). How can you avoid hiring a debt settlement company that is a scam? Do they prey upon vulnerable debtors? I’ll show you some immediate red flags.

OK, first the reviews. I’m really proud of all the families we’ve helped in Victoria. I encourage you to read their reviews and hear their stories on our social media profiles. I think it will give you hope. These are Victoria families who fell into debt, rebuilt their lives, and are now moving ahead.

Here are some recent 4 Pillars reviews to read. These are all local families and Victoria residents:

Or just come in and ask for more information—this is our Victoria office.

4 Pillars Debt Consultants Office

Now, let’s talk about scams by debt consultants and debt settlement companies.

It makes me sad that in the industry where we work there are a few bad apples that take the attention away from the many very good companies that help people.

Due to some of the bad companies recently covered in the news, I wanted to take this opportunity to help warn debtors about how to easily differentiate between a company that is safe to work with and a company that is likely taking advantage of very vulnerable people.

Use these questions to evaluate whether your debt consultant, debt counselor, or credit counselor is a scam:

  • Are they local? Can you go meet them in person? Or are they an online company or a call centre? It’s a warning sign if they are a call center or online business with no local office. Can you meet them in your city?
  • How long have they been in business? The bad debt settlement companies will not have a presence in their community and will only have been open for a short time.
  • How many offices do they have? Do they have a national presence? Do they have a brand people trust?
  • How much do they charge? High upfront fees are a warning signs.
  • Do they have real reviews? Do they have a good standing with the Better Business Bureau?

Lets review some of the above points in more detail:

HOW MUCH DO DEBT CONSULTANTS CHARGE AND WHEN?

Informal Debt Settlement – Please note that Informal Debt Settlement is very different than a Consumer Proposal or Bankruptcy. A Debt Settlement means that no formal BIA (Bankruptcy and Insolvency Act) plan or formal Credit Counselling or Debt Management Plan or OPD Plan is used. It is done “informally” meaning there is no specific structure to the plan. Most are done simply by calling the creditors or collectors direct (either by the debtor themselves or a debt settlement company working for the debtor) and negotiating on the phone a settlement. So we refer to these deals as Informal Debt Settlement.

These types of settlements are not as common in Canada as a Consumer Proposal or Bankruptcy as they are not as regulated and therefore not as consistently effective. However, they can be done, and there are companies who are successful at it, and there are cases where this process works well and is a better option than filing a consumer proposal. But it is not for everyone and understanding all your options is critical.

So, in regards to companies doing INFORMAL Debt Settlement deals please watch out for certain types of unscrupulous debt settlement companies. The things that should raise a red flag are:

First, the debt consultants charge very LARGE UPFRONT fees (fees charged before successfully finding a solution to a client’s debt) often as high as $9000+ with no guarantee of success.

These companies tend to be debt settlement companies specifically with large call centres processing clients on the phone only with no in-person consultations. In fact, a number of them are US companies. This is worrisome because how do you know if you are working with a legitimate company or not. We suggest that you only work with a company you can do business with in person. It is too risky to do debt elimination deals over the phone as there is less accountability.

If considering doing an informal debt settlement, we suggest never pay more than $500-$1000 upfront to a debt settlement company, and make sure the rest of the fees are only paid AFTER the company successfully helps you out of debt. We suggest you review the contract closely to ensure that you pay only a small portion up front, and then the balance after success. And again, this is only in reference specifically to Informal Debt Settlement type deals.

OUR SERVICES

4 Pillars Victoria does not offer debt settlement. We focus on understanding more about the client than just their debt.

We want to understand their long-term financial goals, no matter how unattainable the client believes they are when we first met them.

We want to understand their current budget.

Only then do we review all the options available and together decide on the one that will best suit their budget, achieving their long term financial goals and with our comprehensive credit rebuilding program allows the credit rating to be re-established in the shortest time possible.

This will often result in us working with the client to structure a consumer proposal and representing them through the process to ensure the proposal is filed on their terms.

Consumer Proposals are filed under the Bankruptcy and Insolvency Act with a Bankruptcy Trustee representing the creditors through the process and is highly regulated and follows a very strict process and when structured correctly we believe it is the most effective way to deal with debt.

Debt shouldn’t be dealt with in isolation. It needs to be dealt with as part of a long term financial plan with a comprehensive after care program to rebuild credit so you do not remain vulnerable for future financial failure.

WHAT DO THE DEBT CONSULTANT’S SERVICES ACTUALLY INVOLVE?

The unscrupulous debt settlement companies are only interested in the upfront fees. The success of the program is secondary.

Other companies are just not set up to provide the after care programs required to rebuild credit and customers have a debt plan in place but are left vulnerable for future financial failure as they have bad credit for close to a decade.

A good debt restructuring company needs to look at the person’s entire financial situation and spend time with the client on more than just dealing with debt.

That is the 4 Pillars Promise (www.4pp.ca). We help every client go the full circle from financial crisis to financial freedom and everything in between, a total financial makeover one of our clients called it.

A comprehensive credit rebuilding program and financial rehabilitation program requires the right products to achieve the best results, ongoing budgeting support and a commitment to work with a client for 18 months after the debt plan has been implemented.

Bankruptcy Trustee fees are tariffed by the federal government for the work they do and makes it almost impossible to offer a comprehensive 18-month credit rebuilding and rehabilitation program and remain profitable. It is not the mandate of the trustee to assist in the rehabilitation of the debtor.

Currently, there are one million Canadians with bad credit and many left with bad credit from a process that was designed to help them.

Expect more from your debt plan. The 4 Pillars Promise delivers that. 98% of our clients successfully complete our programs and it is estimated that the industry has a 50% failure rate when all options to deal with debt are factored in.

We want every client to experience a full financial makeover!

CAN YOU MEET THE DEBT CONSULTANT IN PERSON?

Or are they online or a call centre and based somewhere else? It goes without saying that almost all scams and rip-off companies involve some online company where unsuspecting people sign up to work with someone they have never met in person, and with a company that is based online but could actually be anywhere in any in the world and has no obligation to do a good job and no accountability.

Work ONLY with LOCAL real companies and real people where you can meet them in PERSON and check their BBB rating and local feedback. Your chance of success goes way up.

DO THEY HAVE AUTHENTICATED CUSTOMER FEEDBACK?

Look for customer reviews: real people with real Facebook or Google+ profiles.

The best places to read reviews about debt consultation companies are sites such as Facebook, Google, and local sites like Yellow Pages. It’s very difficult for companies to create fake reviews on these sites because you can click on the person who left the review. Are they a real Victoria family? Or is it just a ghost profile?

Here’s another trick used by shady debt consultants. They get their peers and colleagues to post a review. For example, John the Insolvency lawyer praises a debt consultant or credit counsellor because they’ve worked together.

I see these types of review even on Google and Facebook. Ignore any reviews about a company that are from their peers or friends, you want to hear from real people that have used the services.

Look for actual customer’s stories regarding how they were treated.

At 4 Pillars, we’re an open book. I’m talking to people everyday and answering questions on Facebook. We help our clients. And they are happy to share their experience and recommend us.

You can read all our REAL reviews on Google here – https://plus.google.com/+Debtvictoria – or here https://debtvictoria.com/testimonials – or on Facebook here – https://www.facebook.com/4PillarsConsultingVictoria

I take very role in the industry very seriously. Helping people in Victoria is more than a business; it’s a passion (specifically people in Victoria and southern Vancouver Island BC).

I have been helping people and businesses reduce their debt and rebuild their finances for over 6 years. My office is part of a national organisation that has been operating for 14 years with over 70 local offices across Canada.

I have been through my own personal financial struggles when I lost my income for a few years so I completely understand the pain and suffering that people go through when they have too much debt.

Please reach out to us for a free consultation and we can review what we can do to help you financially restructure, relieve you from the stress of your debt, and bring your long term financial goals closer.

You can also read reviews and talk to me on my local Victoria Facebook page. https://www.facebook.com/4PillarsConsultingVictoria