There is no way to protect yourself 100% when undertaking debt settlement online. "Slick websites" with promises of easy debt elimination are everywhere. And even worse, when you contact the companies behind these websites you are given the hard sell, but little in the way of disclosures about what you are getting into.
So how do protect yourself and make sure that you end up with a reputable debt settlement company? For starters, make sure that any company that you deal with is a member of TASC.
What is TASC?
TASC stands for The Association of Settlement Companies.
As the name suggests, TASC is an industry association that is comprised of debt settlement companies. The goal or "mission" of the association is to promote good practice within the debt settlement industry and to protect the interests of consumers (you and I). In order to accomplish this goal, the association sets out by-laws that its members must follow. These by-laws cover everything from advertising practices to disclosure statements that must be presented to potential clients before they sign on to a settlement plan.
Now, that's all fine and good you might be saying, but "how does it protect me?" Or more specifically, "how do I know that the debt settlement firm you are considering is abiding by these by-laws?" Well, there are two things that TASC does specifically to ensure that its members are following their rules so that the consumer debtor is protected when searching for debt settlement online.
The TASC secret shopper program involves the hiring of an independent third party company that "secret shops" all of the members of TASC on a regular basis. The secret shopper calls the settlement company posing as a consumer who is inquiring about their services. Based on the responses that they receive to their questions, as well as the information that is volunteered by the debt settlement company, the secret shopper is able to determine whether or not the company is meeting the standards set out by TASC.
Let's face it, most people who are curious about settling their debts turn to the internet first for information. Finding companies that offer debt settlement online is quick and easy. The problem is that many of these websites make misleading claims about what they can offer you.
Companies that are TASC members on the other hand, frequently have their websites examined by a third party hired by TASC. The purpose of this is to ensure that what is presented on the website (both advertising and statements) meets the standards set out by TASC and obeys the TASC by-laws.
If the websites of companies offering debt settlement online (which almost all, if not all, companies do) make statements or display advertising that fails to meet TASC standards they are notified of these specific issues by TASC. After a short period of time the websites are visited again to see if the necessary changes have been made. The same goes for the secret shopper program. If the secret shopper has an "unsatisfactory" experience (based on a list of criteria) the offending company is notified and is then shopped again in the near future to ensure compliance.
If, under either scenario, the company fails to make the necessary changes that company's membership in TASC is revoked.
Is this method perfect for weeding out the bad companies that offer debt settlement online? Of course not. But the debt settlement industry knows that if it doesn't clean up its own act, the government will step in and do it for them. Therefore, there is great impetus for the members of TASC to regulate themselves and protect consumers who are in debt and vulnerable.