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FTC: Consolidation Companies Could Increase Your Debt

By Ginger Allen, CBS 11 News
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Consumer are irritated by billing and fee disputes, mortgage fraud, debt-relief services, credit repair and aggressive debt collection tactics.

Consumer are irritated by billing and fee disputes, mortgage fraud, debt-relief services, credit repair and aggressive debt collection tactics.

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GRAND PRAIRIE (CBSDFW.COM) – The Federal Trade Commission says some North Texas debt relief companies could leave you in more debt than ever.

“What attracted us to them was we could arrange a settlement,” says Andrew White of Grand Prairie.

White was facing health and financial troubles when he turned to Debt Consultants of America in Dallas.

“I heard it on the radio.” Radio, Television and Internet ads for debt companies promise “secret programs” and ways to “save you thousands” but after White enrolled and paid for eight months, he says he got “nothing, absolutely nothing.” White says his $14,000 debt went up to $16,000.

“They then told me, ’Mr. White we never made a payment and all the 8 payments you made to us have been used for your initial upfront fee…and now we’ll charge you for a settlement free.’ And I wanted to know what did you settle?”

White spoke at the Federal Trade Commission’s news conference. The FTC announced that, over the past decade, debt relief companies have broken promises to hundreds of customers. Some of them claim to eliminate up to 60-percent of credit card debt in just 18-months.

“We determined at the FTC that we could prevent this through the new rules and the legal actions we announced here today,” says Charles Harwood, Deputy Director of the FTC Bureau of Consumer Protection.

The FTC unveiled new rules to stop debt relief companies form collecting advanced frees from people like White. The government also announced it is suing two North Texas companies for deceptive claims. Corey Butcher is part owner in both of the companies.

“As far as savings…I don’t know how much more they want us to substantiate. We’ve shown them between all entities… over 30-thousand settlements,” says Butcher.

Butcher has owned Financial Freedom Processing and Debt Consultants of America since 2006. He says he’s settled more than $150 Million in consumer debt for up to 10,000 customers.  A sign on the company walls says “Customers are #1.” Butcher thinks he’s unfairly taking the fall for an industry with some bad apples. In fact, he says he’s spent his career trying to bring attention to bad debt companies.

“I always challenged and called for state regulation that this industry had to be regulated.”

Butcher says Andrew White…and many of the other customers now complaining…never completed their financial programs with his company.

White and the FTC are now heading to court to argue that, if they had completed those programs, they would be in deeper debt.

For more information on the Federal Trade Commission program, including how to choose a debt settlement company or how to settle your debt, click here.

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