Debt Settlement Companies: More Misleading Ads

27 Oct Debt Settlement Companies: More Misleading Ads

Bankruptcy lawyers can’t help but pay special attention to TV or radio ads aired on behalf of so-called “debt settlement” companies. Aside from the fact that such firms have frequently been the subject of federal or state regulatory investigations, their ads are often filled with misleading or questionable claims.

Here are some quotes from ads recently aired in Minnesota by debt settlement firms:

  • The government has been bailing out the banks — now it’s your turn!
  • The bank have been given billions and now they have to clear out their books!
  • Don’t declare bankruptcy! Call for a free consultation.
  • Live better — debt free!
  • For more information on settling your debt in a government bailout era, call now!
  • We’ll tell you the secrets the banks don’t want you to know!
  • If you owe $10,000 or more on credit cards, you may be eligible for a special program that will allow you to settle your debt for a fraction of what you owe!
  • Did you know you have the right to settle your debt for pennies on the dollar?

Live better” — shamelessly lifted from Wal-Mart’s well known advertising campaign. “Free consultation” — suggesting that lawyers or other recognized professionals will consult with you, when that is almost never the case at a debt settlement firm. “You have the right to settle your debt” — yes, the same way you have the “right” to ask your neighbor if can use his boat this weekend; he also has the right to say no.

The false message of such ads is that there are special programs authorized by the government or even your creditors to obtain a reduction of your debt; or that your debt is actually questionable, so that it should be somehow “settled”; or that there is a government bailout program aimed at helping people with credit card debt.

Consumers ought to beware of any firms that make sensational or misleading claims concerning “debt settlement” in their TV or radio advertising.

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Craig W. Andresen is a consumer bankruptcy lawyer in Bloomington, Minnesota, with 22 years’ experience in consumer and small business bankruptcy cases. He is the Minnesota chair of the National Association of Consumer Bankruptcy Attorneys, and is a member of the Minnesota State Bar Association’s Bankruptcy Section. Mr. Andresen lectures often on the topic of consumer bankruptcy at local and national legal seminars.
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