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Debt relief: Who truly promotes a debtor's best interests?

Steve Rhode, a columnist for the Huffington Post, referred to a "sad truth" in a recent article addressing debt, namely this: Most debt relief companies have no real obligation toward their customers, with the highest priority of their employees being to maximize the wealth of the company rather than to legitimately help a stressed-out debtor.

Put another way: Unlike a bankruptcy attorney, who has both a legal and ethical obligation to act in accordance with the best interests of his or her client, debt relief companies operate under no such constraint.

As Rhode puts it, such companies “have no requirement to put the needs of the consumer first.” He adds that debt settlement, debt reduction, credit counseling and loan assistance companies “put their needs before yours and those needs are to maximize their revenue.”

That’s not exactly how the “help you with debt” message is commonly conveyed in media ads and home mailers, is it?

In fact, a debtor with seriously pressing -- in many cases, overwhelming -- financial problems caused by job loss, medical debt, credit card obligations or other factors is often delivered a message that underplays the viability of bankruptcy as an option in lieu of a strategy that is more profitable to the debt relief company or agency.

That is in many instances this: Endure the pain and enroll in a long-term program to whittle down all that is owed.

That might or might not accord with a consumer’s best interests, but it unquestionably advances a debt relief company’s interests in every case.

Rhode rightly urges caution in dealing with debt relief entities and says that a debtor seeking help should “absolutely talk to a consumer bankruptcy attorney.”

Source: Huffington Post, "Why debt relief help is broken in America," Steve Rhode, Nov. 13, 2013

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