Dealing with the higher cost of living has left many of our fellow citizens with huge debts and looking for a way to ease the stress of the financial burden. Well, be careful in seeking ways to handle and reduce debt. A study by the Better Business Bureau® finds that some look for help from companies promising to reduce or eliminate their debt or fix their credit score. And some of these companies make big promises, but rarely deliver, leaving people further in debt. The 2023 study, Credit Repair and Debt Relief: BBB® study found some companies fail to deliver on big promises, examines debt relief, debt consolidation and credit repair industries, finding a pattern of high fees and overstated promises from predatory companies.
“BBB has over 11 thousand complaints and a thousand negative reviews about debt and credit assistance, which reveal a pattern of misleading and sometimes fraudulent claims, especially among a group of companies headquartered in the American west.”
“Consumers told BBB stories about how their dedication to plans proposed by these companies, meant to boost their credit scores or reduce crushing debt, left them worse off. While some consumers report positive experiences with the credit and debt assistance industry, this study shows there are negative patterns reported by consumers to BBB about companies in the industry, and outright scams designed to deceive and take money from consumers.”
• KEY FINDINGS — The BBB found that predatory debt relief, consolidation, and credit repair companies advertise quick and extensive fixes for low credit scores and defaulted debt, but the ability to enact change is often much more limited than implied.
“Consumers report to BBB the mounting fees for debt relief programs and lackluster results from credit repair businesses have lost them thousands of dollars and left them worse off than before. Many of the services offered by credit and debt assistance companies can be done by consumers themselves. However, difficulty in understanding their options, lack of know-how or a time crunch and other issues can lead some consumers to seek assistance.”
Here are some key terms and services to know when researching options.
BBB offers tips for consumers considering debt relief or credit repair: • Use AnnualCreditReport.com to get a free credit report. • Don’t pay or provide payment information until service is rendered. • Critically examine any guarantee made. Few, if any, companies can ensure a credit or debt company will agree to negotiate with them or adjust reports. • If you are in default, call debt holders yourself and attempt to negotiate a lower debt payment. • Check monthly bank statements to avoid recurring charges from companies. • Search online for free information. • Don’t be rushed. Unscrupulous businesses and scammers both use high-pressure tactics. • Avoid giving away personal banking information until you are 100% certain a company is legitimate. • Refuse to work with companies that won’t tell you your rights when it comes to credit repair or debt relief. • Be wary of anyone claiming to be associated with a government agency.
Where to report concerns: • Better Business Bureau or BBB Scam Tracker. • Federal Trade Commission (FTC) or call 877-FTC-Help. • Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre – or 1-888-495-8501. • Find your state Attorneys General online.
• PROGRESS IS BACK — The fall farm show season kicks off with the 2023 Farm Progress Show, which returns to Decatur Aug. 29-31. This year’s event adds new features, exhibits and more to the show site, happening there for the 10th time since 2005. (More details on page 12 of the print and online editions) This is such a great event and a personal reminder to me of one of my proudest moments during my years as Decatur’s mayor, when so many of us worked together to land the Farm Progress Show every other year for Decatur. As mentioned this year’s show is the 10th one for Decatur and, honestly, it doesn’t seem like it was 18 years ago that we were greeting visitors from far and near to the first show. The event has grown over the years and I understand that visitors from 44 different nations will be participating in, or attending the show.
The Farm Progress Show runs daily, Aug. 29-31, from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Tuesday and Wednesday, and from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Thursday. Tickets are $20 for adults and $10 for ages 13-17; 12 and under are free. Discounted advance tickets for $15 are available at FarmProgressShow.com. Follow along on social media with the official Farm Progress Show hashtag: #FPS23.
The economic ripple impact is felt all over the Decatur area. This show is so good for Decatur in so many ways.
• NIKKI OPPONENT — Thomas Clatterbuck has announced that he is running as a Republican candidate in Illinois’ 13th Congressional district. (Story on page 27 of the print and online editions.) Democrat Nikki Budzinski is serving in her first term representing that district in Congress.
The 13th Dis-trict runs from Urbana-Champaign to Springfield along I-72, then south to the Metro East. It’s about 15 miles wide and 200 miles long and the district lines appear to have been designed and colored in by a one-year-old using crayons. It is another prime example of what a district map looks like when a political party in power creates it.
Anyhoo, Clatterbuck will be facing off against Joshua Loyd, and any other Republican who steps forward to run in the Republican Primary to see who will face Congresswoman Budzinski in the 2024 General Election.
Budzinski will be tough to beat as the Democrats drew the crazy-looking district map to favor her and she has gobs more money in her campaign finances bank account than either Republican candidate at this point. As of the last reported candidate finances report at the end of the second quarter of this year Budzinski had $720,125.33 on hand to Loyd’s $1,586.11. Clatterbuck had $0 but he wasn’t yet a candidate at the end of June.
• BIG WAIT — One morning last week, my wife took her car for the usual routine servicing at the local dealership where it was purchased and the line-up of cars waiting for service was very long and a little shocking!
Since she had not experienced such a line at any of the other times she took her car in to be serviced, she asked one of the service reps about the long line. He said that “it’s been that way” for the past several months and he wasn’t sure why. I don’t know if people are keeping their cars longer because of the economy, or what the reason is, but, you might want to call for an appointment to have your car serviced at your local dealership — or take a sack lunch with you to eat while you wait!
• SOME SERVICE? I don’t know if you have noticed but it seems that “service” has really slipped in several businesses. A lot of readers have complained to me about the difficulty in getting work done in a reasonable length of time — and a lack of friendliness that once existed in some businesses. It could be a lack of employees to do the work and perform the service, or a lack of experienced employees, or something else. It is different and, when a business provides great, courteous service, I think it is more appreciated than ever.
I JOIN Brian Byers on WSOY’s Byers & Co. every Thursday morning at 7:00, as I have each week for over 20 years to discuss the issues impacting our community. I always enjoy our discussions.