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Freedom Debt Relief Bragging About Being in Forbes. Not So Fast Fellas. Back the Bus Up.

I am constantly accused of targeting this company or that company but in truth I’m so busy writing about the next thing to cross in front of me I don’t have time to have anyone on the radar. I say that because I find myself writing something that involves a company I’ve written about before, Freedom Debt Relief, a debt settlement company.

The following press release put out by Freedom Debt Relief crossed my desk this afternoon.

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE / PRURGENT

SAN MATEO, CALIF., March 15, 2010 — Freedom Debt Relief (FDR) has received the Goldline certification for excellence among debt settlement companies.

The Goldline certification indicates that the company is a leader among peers in its industry, explains Andrew Housser, CEO of FDR. “Goldline’s stamp of approval is a meaningful indication that an independent third party has confirmed FDR’s position as a forerunner in the debt settlement industry.”

In its certification process, Goldline researches and evaluates professional service providers through a multi-step method designed to identify those businesses that stand out among their peers. The firm conducts extensive primary and secondary research, including executive, employee and customer interviews, and evaluates company results with industry-specific benchmark data.

Through its findings, Goldline is able to identify companies that meet four criteria: exceed their industry’s standards for professionalism; maintain an excellent record of ethical business dealings; stand among the best service providers in their industries; and boast a time-tested record of success. Goldline published its evaluation of debt settlement companies in the March issue of Forbes.

“The Goldline certification is especially important in the debt settlement industry,” says Housser, “as it is a business that can be confusing, and which some have considered suspect when it comes to working with consumer finances.” The third-party evaluation and certification, he explains, confirms FDR’s approach to, and success in, helping consumers struggling with unmanageable debt effectively, efficiently and fairly.

A debt settlement firm, such as FDR, negotiates directly with creditors on consumers’ behalf to resolve debt balances, lowering principal balances due. Offering an alternative to credit counseling, debt consolidation and bankruptcy, FDR’s debt settlement programs help qualified clients fully resolve their debts, typically in two to four years.

Something resonated in the back of my hollow but melodic skull about Goldline so I had to go look them up once again at GoldlineResearch.com. As I remembered, Goldline is not an independent certification company like a Consumers Reports, they screen companies in various categories and to sell placement of the company name in an advertisement, like the sample below, that appears in Forbes.

Freedom Debt Relief Bragging About Being in Forbes. Not So Fast Fellas. Back the Bus Up.

Sample Service Provider Ad from Goldline

Goldline says they go through a 7 step process in checking out companies that appear in their advertisement in Forbes. Goldline also says they “look for service providers that are among the best in their industries, exceed their industry’s standards for professionalism, have no lawsuits or grievances from clients against them and have a time-tested track record of success.” – Source

But here is what struck me, I remembered that Freedom Debt Relief had at least one open lawsuit against them and when I went to check I found they actually have at least two. I didn’t bother to check on a state level. Source, Source. And last I heard Freedom Debt Relief was still involved in the State of New York investigation of the debt settlement industry by the Attorney General. – Source. And according to the BBB they have an F rating and 227 complaints filed against them. – Source. So on that basis alone, how did Freedom Debt Relief make the Goldline list?

It’s also important for readers of the advertisement in Forbes and consumers to understand that the list is not a top of the field list. As Goldline itself says:

Goldline does not produce “Top 10″ lists. Goldline offers those companies that receive the Goldline certification the opportunity to participate in cooperative marketing in national publications such as Forbes and Fortune.

So will Freedom Debt Relief will use their appearance in the paid advertisement in Forbes as some seal or mark to entice consumers to use their services as if they were certified by an independent entity? Why it appears they are. It’s already on the home page of their site.

Freedom Debt Relief Bragging About Being in Forbes. Not So Fast Fellas. Back the Bus Up.

In order to appear in the Goldline Forbes advertisement Freedom Debt Relief appears to have purchased the ‘Publication in Forbes in “Leading Providers” Listing’ package for $4,500. That package includes:

  • One-time publication in national edition of Forbes magazine.
  • One (1) copy of the issue of the magazine in which the listing appears.
  • “As Seen In” placard.
  • “As Seen In” PDF and listing artwork PDF.
  • Listing on ForbesCustom.com.
  • Use of aforementioned artwork for twelve (12) months from date of publication.
  • Limited to no more than ten (10) participants.

Goldline sells this listing service as a sales tool. “Selection onto a Goldline Research research guide provides a unique opportunity to attract new clients.

So when Freedom Debt Relief says:

“The Goldline certification is especially important in the debt settlement industry,” says Housser, “as it is a business that can be confusing, and which some have considered suspect when it comes to working with consumer finances.” The third-party evaluation and certification, he explains, confirms FDR’s approach to, and success in, helping consumers struggling with unmanageable debt effectively, efficiently and fairly. – Source

Really? It appears to mean, in my opinion, that a debt settlement company that has at least two active open lawsuits (did not check on the state level), 227 BBB complaints (79 in the last year) and is under investigation by the State of New York Attorney General is apparently a leader in the debt settlement field. No wonder some have considered the debt settlement field suspect, as the press release so accurately points out.

At the time of publication I asked Goldline Research for clarification on their screening process. I am still waiting for them to get back to me.

Freedom Debt Relief Bragging About Being in Forbes. Not So Fast Fellas. Back the Bus Up.
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About Steve Rhode

Steve Rhode
Steve Rhode is the Get Out of Debt Guy and has been helping good people with bad debt problems since 1994. You can learn more about Steve, here.
  • Dinah

    Goldline certification is just as good as a bottle cap pin.
    Just another fake sparkle to lure unsuspecting distressed consumer like me.
    I was in one of FDR’s settlement programs and I was sued for $2,317.77 which ended up in wage garnishment because according to them, my $12,271.00 payment was not enough funds to settle the law suit.
    I’m sure the company’s employees would defend the company because they were the satisfied ones who siphoned the accounts of struggling clients.

  • Dinah

    Goldline certification is just as good as a bottle cap pin.
    Just another fake sparkle to lure unsuspecting distressed consumer like me.
    I was in one of FDR’s settlement programs and I was sued for $2,317.77 which ended up in wage garnishment because according to them, my $12,271.00 payment was not enough funds to settle the law suit.
    I’m sure the company’s employees would defend the company because they were the satisfied ones who siphoned the accounts of struggling clients.

  • http://Website Joy

    I started an account with Freedom Debt Relief on 2/15/10…. and I really wish I had read more about this business before I did. I can probably come up with past due amounts on three of the four debts that were incorporated into FDR’s program, but there’s one that’s a much larger monthly payment that would be tough now to bring current. I’m really not enjoying the constant “pay up deadbeat” calls and emails I’m getting. I have already had two drafts go into the GSC account that was set up to fund this mess, and my current balance in the GSC reserves only reflects half of that money (the other half has all been withdrawn away into “fees”.

    Should I cancel my account with them? How much of the two drafts should I expect to lose and never see again, even though there has been nothing paid to any of the creditors?

    • http://GetOutOfDebt.org Steve Rhode

      Joy,

      In general, typically money taken as fees by debt settlement companies is not refunded unless you threaten then with BBB complaints and complaints to your state Attorney General.

      If you’ve only been in a few months then it might be better to cut your losses now if that is what your gut is telling you to do.

      If you went into debt settlement because you could not make the minimum payments on your debt then you might want to make an appointment with a local bankruptcy attorney for a free consultation and learn about how you can be protected by the law and get a fresh start.

      Steve

      • Natalia

        Steve, your advice to Joy is accurate. And please, the BBB is a paid membership club and Freedom Debt Relief AND Debtmerica are both in their little “club.” I have worked for all these companies over the past eleven years and the majority of them stink. Now that the laws have passed to help protect the consumer, “no fees collected until the debts are settled” does help a little bit, you still have your sneaky companies like Debtmerica that think they can go under with the wire with the FTC. Consumers need to seek the advaice of an attorney who his bar license at risk by not taking care of business. Companies like Debtmerica and Freedom get their “masked fees” one way or another upfront. And I cannot even blame the reps as they are under duress to misrepresent, lie and pressure the consumer or be fired by the little nazi office manager. I am going to laugh the day I see them being raided in their OC office. In the interim, please tell your readers to beware and do their background checks.

  • Gary

    I have first hand experience with being lied to by Freedom Debt Relief. I was told by them in a email(I have a copy) and in a phone conversation they’d come to a settlement with Chase Visa on my old credit card account. In order to accept this settlement I needed to agree to stay in the program for another 18 months paying them a little over $400 per month, boy was I stupid! About 7 months later I began receiving calls and letters in the mail from a debt collection agency about this Chase Visa account. So I called Chase Visa after getting the runaround from FDR. Chase Visa told me they had no such agreement with Freedom Debt Relief and there was NOTHING in my account file about an agreement with Freedom Debt Relief and they don’t negotiate with FDR because of litigation going on in California.

  • Tabatha

    You have to pay to be a member of the BBB, so it’s not much different from Goldline.

    PS You seem to be no stranger to lawsuits: http://www.corp.ca.gov/ENF/pdf/2002/myvesta.pdf

    Maybe you should tell your readership you have ulterior motives for flaming competitors?

    • http://GetOutOfDebt.org Steve Rhode

      Tabatha,

      OMG, thats fantastic! Finally someone wrote about that California thing other than me. I can’t believe it took so long. I went public with that years and years ago and I even wrote about that incident here on this site. Click here to read article. But for clarification, I was not sued. I was blackmailed by California and then we agreed to resolve the disagreement.

      Freedom Debt Relief isn’t a competitor of mine and I wasn’t aware that writing about the press release they sent out had an ulterior motive. They sent it. I write, that’s what I do.

      Steve

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