Among the most recommended debt settlement companies, Federal Debt Relief is a top choice. The quality of resources and customer service that they offer which includes the client dashboard is quite impressive. But they do not offer personalized service and charge fees on the other side when compared to other debt settlement companies.
Presently, Freedom Debt Relief is one of the largest debt settlement companies in the U.S. They have been in operation since 2002 and are a branch of the Freedom Financial Group, who also offers debt consolidation loans through their FreedomPlus Program.
To succeed in settling all of your debts is quite challenging as many lenders refuse to negotiate. They may even sell the debt to other collection company or debt buyer. Freedom also deals with these buyers or helps the clients in settling with creditors.
List of contents
- Freedom Debt Relief at a glance
- How does it operate?
- Alternative options to Freedom Debt Relief
- Benefits and Drawbacks
Freedom Debt Relief at a glance
The following is a quick glance on Freedom Debt Relief and its services.
Typical debt - $25,000+Fees 18% to 25% of enrolled debt
Time frame - 2 to 5 years
The average time frame - 3 years, 10 months
Savings estimate - 20% to 35% after fees
Despite being rated A- at Better Business Bureau, Freedom received 350+ negative customer reviews within the past couple of years. The reviews include complaints and issues about their services, billing, collection, and more. National Debt Relief, who is a direct competitor of Freedom, under the same time frame only had about 80 complaints.
How does it operate?
Freedom Debt Relief usually works with customers who are struggling with unsecured debt.
Eligibility to qualify for Debt Settlement
To apply for debt settlement you must qualify for the following situations.
You are required to have a current debt balance totaling over $7,500
Debts must not be of federal student loans or involve any collateral
The process followed by Freedom Debt Relief is very similar to other debt settlement companies and is usually as follows:
1 - Enrollment
You can enroll for the debt settlement and immediately stop paying your creditors.
2 - Open a dedicated Savings account
You are required to open a dedicated savings account where you make a deposit every month. Freedom will coordinate with clients and decide the amount to be deposited each month based on the total debt and your financial situation. This will accumulate a certain amount of money for the settlement.
Remember, if you stop your payments to creditors, you will fall under delinquency. This increases the debt amount due to the accumulation of fees and interest.
3 - Negotiation with creditors
Freedom starts negotiating with every creditor on your behalf in an attempt to make a settlement to reduce the amount that you have to pay. The technique is that after several months of non-payment, the creditor will be urged to accept a lower amount instead of risking getting nothing.
4 - Payments
If the creditor accepts the settlement offered, you will pay them from the dedicated account where you have been saving, in installments or as a whole. You will also pay servicing fee to Freedom Debt Relief according to your previous agreements.
The service fee charged for debt settlement
By law, Freedom does not charge an upfront fee for the services it offers. They collect fees after each debt that it settles. The fee usually ranges anywhere between 18-25% of the amount of debt. Although, fees may sometimes vary depending on the state where you live.
There is also a one time fee of $9.95 for the purpose of setting up a special account and a monthly fee of the same amount which covers the servicing of the same.
The entire time required for this process is anywhere between 24 - 48 months which is about the same as the industry average. While this might be putting some of you off in the sense that it looks like quite a bit of time, keep in mind that some companies will take anywhere between 5-7 years.
You should also keep a mental note that most companies that promise a quick relief for resolving your debt are ones that you need to be cautious with. It is probably for the best to avoid these companies altogether as those may be scams.
In simple terms -
You make a monthly deposit in a newly opened and insured FDIC deposit account dedicated for this process
Freedom will analyze your debt and structure a negotiation strategy
Once you accumulate sufficient amount, Freedom, on your behalf, starts negotiation with your creditors
The creditors and Freedom will agree upon a settlement which is in your favor
You have an option to accept or reject this settlement
If you approve this, you make payments according to the settlement
The creditor then reports the same to the credit bureaus.
Alternative options to Freedom Debt Relief
As we have mentioned before, debt settlement does not guarantee a desirable result. Hence, it would be a wise decision to look at other alternatives before we jump into it. Some of the available alternatives are as follow.
1 - Debt Management Plan
For those with a consistent income, pay for credit card debts within 3 to 5 years. It is basically a consolidation of debts on credit cards through third-party companies.
2 - Debt Consolidation
One option to consider is consolidation. In Debt Consolidation, a bigger loan with a lower interest rate is taken to pay for several smaller loans with a higher interest rate.
3 - File for Bankruptcy
When you file for bankruptcy, the government protects you from your creditor for all or parts of your debt. Any further attempts of collection from your creditors will be considered illegal. Your credit will tank, as it is a form of settlement. On a happy note, research states that credit scores tend to go back up after about a year.
4 - Self Management
Another option includes you calling your creditors yourself to negotiate. Successful negotiation could save you a lot of money in the ways of fees and a ton of time which debt settlement companies take to get it done in your favor. It also would save your credit scores from sinking.
Benefits and Drawbacks
Freedom Debt Relief has the advantage of reducing the hassle as they track your progress and update you through an online portal
You get help from knowledgeable customer service
Freedom has helped in setting industry standards
It participated as a member of the founders of the American Fair Credit Council, which is the one that standardizes the industry practices
It also had an impact on establishing the Federal Trade Commission's rules which involve the banning abusive debt settlement practices in the year 2010
Freedom has the biggest disadvantage of putting you at a high risk of being sued. Former customers have been sued by creditors as a result of stopping payments
Strategy planning might take as long as it might be advertised initially. This lengthens the process as a whole
Nothing is guaranteed and there always is a risk that your creditors will decline any form of settlement
Freedom operates in about 33 states and three territories and also Washington, DC where their debt settlement services are permitted
Note - Following are the states in which, if you reside, Freedom cannot operate - Maine, Mississippi, New Hampshire, New Jersey, North Dakota, Oregon, Connecticut, Georgia, Hawaii, Illinois, Kansas, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Vermont, Washington, West Virginia, and Wyoming.
Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) filed a lawsuit against Freedom in 2017 because they allegedly charged customers fees without actually settling the debts. This is illegal since according to the law, debt settlement companies can not charge their customers upfront.
They also allegedly made customers negotiate settlements themselves and charge fees to some of the customers for negotiating from the creditors directly. The CFPB claimed that Freedom promised some consumers to negotiate for all their debts, regardless of having the knowledge that it would be practically impossible with the strict policies of some big creditors.
Freedom completely denied these allegations.
Freedom Debt Relief is a much-appreciated and reputed company and they value this which is evident from the accreditations that they have taken the effort to attain. The company is accredited by both the IAPDA and the AFCC.
Borrowers in debt should prefer talking to their creditors individually to figure out if they have any plans for a particular case of hardship. If you are being called by collection agencies, you should try to negotiate a reduction in the principal.
If you are not able to handle the negotiations with creditors on your own, you might be better off finding a creditor counselor through the National Foundation for credit counseling, at nfcc.org, or by calling upon Freedom Debt Relief phone number - 800-388-2227.
If none of those work then you might be better off by declaring bankruptcy. Contact the American Bankruptcy Institute (www.abiworld.org) or the National Association of Consumer Bankruptcy Attorneys (nacba.org) to find an attorney who will be able to help you.
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Non-Clients - 800-230-1553
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