Quick Refresher on Important Debt Relief Consumer Protection Rules
Debt from home mortgage loans and credit cards can be overwhelming if youâve been laid off or are struggling to make ends meet. Sometimes people can get so overwhelmed by mortgage and credit card debt that they need to consult a professional who can provide debt relief services. Unfortunately, like in all businesses, some of the debt relief âprogramsâ out there are scams that do little more than take advantage of desperate people who need real help from a real debt relief company.
If youâre in need of debt consolidation, debt management, debt settlement, or other debt relief services, you should familiarize yourself with two basic but important rules put in place by the Federal Trade Commission to help separate the good guys from the bad guys and protect you against scams.
The Telemarketing Sales Rule was amended by the FTC to help protect consumers from fraudulent debt relief programs that are out there to take your money without providing any kind of real debt help. The Telemarketing Sales Rule bans companies that sell debt relief services over the phone from collecting upfront fees before they have actually negotiated, settled, or reduced your unsecured debt (usually credit card debt). If a company wants to charge you an enrollment fee or some other fee before they perform any work, tell them not thanks and hang up the phone because itâs illegal and almost certainly a scam.
The Mortgage Assistance Relief Services Rule also helps protect consumers against scams. The Mortgage Assistance Relief Services Rule bans companies offering mortgage debt relief, foreclosure relief, or mortgage modification services from charging upfront fees unless specific conditions are met. According to the rule, a debt relief company must provide you with a written offer from your mortgage lender or servicer that explains the key changes in the mortgage terms that would occur if you accepted the offer. Only if you agree to this written offer can a debt relief company then charge you a fee.
The FTC spends a lot of time going after crooked debt relief companies, but that doesnât mean good ones arenât out there. Good companies are out there and these two rules are there to help make sure you can identify the bad actors and that the FTC can prosecute them.
For more information on consumer protection rules and resources, or to file a complaint or report a scam, visit the FTCâs Bureau of Consumer Protection at www.ftc.gov/bcp.
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