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Debt Restructure Sales Script Fails MSTARS SAFTI Checklist

Recently I exposed the debt restructure sales effort in Consumer Debt Restructuring 101: What It is and Why You Should Avoid It. Consumer debt restructure is going to become the next wave of marketing efforts for old advanced fee debt settlement sales operations.

Following that article a tipster (send in your tips here) sent me a mandatory disclosure statement from the training group MSTARS and asked me how the debt restructure program stacked up with the mandatory disclosures as specified by the MSTARS State and Federal Transparency Initiative (SAFTI).

The MSTARS checklist provides a list of mandatory disclosures and states they are “the most comprehensive list available in the industry.”

While the list appears to have been written for debt settlement sales people the sound advice applies to the debt restructure market as well.

“Nearly all of the actions taken against our industry have been related to the impressions that the front-line agent gave to the consumer about the debt settlement program. The FTC believes that what your front-line agent says to the consumer supersedes even your service agreement and contracts.”Source.

That’s a factual statement by MSTARS and good advice for all debt relief companies to listen to.

Using the MSTARS 20 Mandatory Disclosures list I went back and evaluated the debt restructure program sales scripts as promoted by Cyrus Global and the Amerizon Group material I previous covered here.

MSTARS 20 MANDATORY DISCLOSURES / CONCEPTS FOR EVERY CALL

  1. Complete fee disclosures and administration of the details to the penny. (How much are fees, when will they be paid, and what are they for).

    FAIL – Fails to tell consumer fees will be paid out first to legal plan rather than accrued. Fails to mention additional monthly fees or limited refund policy.

  2. Full and accurate credit impacts of the debt settlement program for the client.

    FAIL – Fails to cover the impact of late payments on credit and reporting of charge offs.

  3. Accurate percentage of savings, based on your actual internal client‟s experience with your program. (Remember, there are many variables involved that will affect this. If you can‟t substantiate it with every client, don‟t say it.)

    FAIL – States debts will be repaid at 40 percent but fails to say what the overall percentage of repayment is based on historical data of previously enrolled clients when factoring in all their data.

  4. Card closure and non-use of credit/credit cards (How and why the cards get closed. Cannot keep and use cards out of the program. This is not specific to your underwriting guidelines.)

    Not mentioned in sales script.

  5. All creditor legal remedies and legal risks associated with the debt settlement program. (And without giving legal advice, see below.)

    FAIL – While the script says creditors may sue it says it is in rare cases. The script is silent on other legal remedies creditor may attempt to pursue. But then the script pushes a legal protection package to protect the consumer against legal action. If legal action is rare, what is the need to purchase a legal protection plan?

  6. Creditor calls disclosure. (They can and will call even if you have the LPA/PA and serve C&D. If you say they won‟t and they do, you have lied.)

    FAIL – While the script says consumers will need to stop paying their debts, it does not say it will trigger collection activities and calls that can’t be stopped. Creditor calls are only mentioned in a rebuttal statement and then says “they are nothing to worry about.”

  7. Number of months in the program accurately described. (Must be substantiated. If you say 36 months and variables prevent this, you have lied. This cannot be based on industry statistics; it must be accurate to your average client and substantiated.)

    FAIL – The sales pitch gives the consumer the impression the program will take two or three years and even says “we can actually mark that date on your calendar” but fails to inform consumer that is only possible if all debt is purchased by a debt buyer, which they don’t guarantee.

  8. Accurate timeframe to creditor contact on their behalf.

    FAIL – No mention.

  9. Accurate timeframe to first settlement.

    FAIL – No mention.

  10. Tax consequences and how to handle them (Without giving tax advice.)

    FAIL – No mention.

  11. Accurate description of alternative debt relief options.

    FAIL – No mention.

  12. No trigger words or deception. (“Pennies on the dollar”, “Secret program”, “Obama plan” “Loophole”, etc…)

    FAIL – Gives the impression all the debt will be resolved for “40 cents on the dollar.”

  13. No legal advice may be given or insinuated unless the agent is an attorney licensed to practice law in that state.

    Program sells legal protection plan but that plan does not provide for calls to an attorney to discuss the consumers situation.

  14. No tax advice may be given or insinuated unless the agent is a licensed CPA.

    The script already failed because no information was given about the tax consequences of debt restructure.

  15. Must not advise the client to stop paying their creditors directly.

    FAIL – The script and rebuttal tells the consumer to fall behind.

  16. Must not advise the clients to avoid contact with the creditors.

    The script is silent on this.

  17. No promise of when credit will become “remedied‟ or usable. No future scores quoted.

    FAIL – Script says “we can get your debt off your credit BEFORE you finish paying back what you owe.”

  18. Full explanation of how the program works. (What it is and isn‟t, what your role is vs theirs.)

    FAIL – The script omits a large amount of facts about this program. There is no open discussion of consequences and verified results.

  19. No overpromising and/or exaggerating the program effectiveness or results therein.

    FAIL – The sales script makes it appear all the debt will be purchased and the consumer has no worries about that.

  20. No emotional enrollments. Clients must make an educated decision based on sound advice and facts to enroll in the program.

    FAIL – The sales pitch is full of emotional triggers and not on a comprehensive review of the consumers situation to identify the best solution based on their situation.

Overall the program is a massive failure when you compare the Cyrus Global and Amerizon Group marketing material distributed for use by sales agents and companies.

This just reinforces why the debt restructure program should be avoided by consumers and debt relief companies that want to stay out of trouble.

Debt Restructure Sales Script Fails MSTARS SAFTI Checklist
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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.
  • Stanley

    SAFTI

    SAFTI
    addresses a real need in the industry.  On the one side there are industry
    lobbyists who feature companies who are doing their job and helping consumers
    get out of debt.  On the other side are groups who educate consumers and provide
    words of caution about the “bad players”.  Scattered in the middle are marketing
    pitches that promise everything under the sun, many with absolutely no basis. 
    Worse yet, there are sites that attempt to look like they are consumer friendly
    but are really just lead generators. 
     
    The
    outcome?  Consumers who have no clear place where they can compare and contrast
    companies without the marketing hype.  The consumers works with a company based
    on a sales pitch and then pray they don’t get scammed. 
     
    SAFTI
    provides a place that is BS free where a consumer can begin choosing amongst
    companies that are open and transparent.  Companies on the SAFTI directory also
    agree to have their disputes handled as top priority… before they end up at the
    AG, FTC, etc.  SAFTI is the outlet for consumer concerns that require a
    3rd party perspective. 
     
    SAFTI
    will promote a safe environment for the consumer by highlighting those companies
    that promote transparency and want the industry to prosper.  Without SAFTI the
    industry will fall victim to more government rules, regulations and a greatly
    shortened lifespan.  Stop letting bad companies hide.  Debt Relief is needed and
    Government will act way after their help is needed.  Band together and be seen
    as promoting the industry.

  • Debt Free

    Just another Tasc, IAPDA, or USOBA. Just another person trying to make a buck claiming to regulate an industry that the government already regulated. When is it going to stop? Its true that there are still alot of scam companies out there, ie. debt elimination, and “the attorney model with up front fees” but the last thing this industry needs is another ” non government regulatory company” giving other companies bad ratings because they do not want to pay for a membership fee to be listed as compliant. Lets just stick with the BBB, this is and has been there profession for years.

    • http://www.mstarsinc.com/ Matthew Hearn

       The IAPDA provides basic training and UDMSA approved certification, primarily focused on the negotiations and basic core knowledge. USOBA is no longer operating, TASC is now the AFCC and has a major black-eye and does no real service to the consumers, the CFPB is gaining momentum and is using an examination process to identify UDAAP violations and risks, the FTC is nailing companies based on Section 5 violations, the  state AGs are going after whoever they want based on even limited complaint volumes, the BBB is steering everyone away from debt relief as a general rule, the media is still slamming the industry as it has information to do so, the bad companies are still out there robbing hard working American citizens and the good companies have only their personal laurels to rest upon. And you are saying that a system like SAFTI isn’t necessary? I would say your comment is either fear driven or short sighted to say the least. I hope the guys at SAFTI make this the most explosive line in the sand yet!

      • Debt Free

        What are the fees involved to become a recognized company with SAFTI, and what
        happens if you find a non-compliant company? Do you report them to the FTC? Why
        wouldn’t you turn them in, you know since you are trying to be a cowboy, the new
        sheriff in town. Why when you Google “SAFTI” this organization is listed lower
        than window and firearm companies? How relevant is SAFTI really, who is even
        going to search SAFTI for a legitimate Debt Relief Provider? And to answer your
        question, No, I don’t think SAFTI is necessary. What should happen is the
        government should make real guidelines for debt relief providers to adhere to,
        without the loopholes, and that are not so strict that an organization can
        actually turn a profit for their efforts and help people get out of debt at the
        same time. Debt settlement is a viable solution for allot of consumers and the
        regulations and the different state laws are unreasonable. The government should
        get a task force and act as a consumer in need and secret shop all of the
        companies left to see how they truly operate, and regulate accordingly, that
        would solve all the problems.

      • http://www.mstarsinc.com/ Matthew Hearn

         First let me start by saying that I am not in control of SAFTI. I invented the concept, began deployment and then turned the concept over to larger organizations heavily grounded in consumer protection and strategic business development. That said, I did create the concept. It is absolutely what is needed. As for the SEO, I have turned over the domains and SAFTI will absolutely be streamlined. They will also be launching major TV, Radio and internet campaigns informing the consumers of it’s presence. From what I understand about SAFTI as it has evolved, it will act as a liaison between the consumer and the participating (or not participating) firms. When complaints arise, a series of steps are activated, escalating the complaint to the proper level of leadership within that firm. In the event that a consumer does not receive the required assistance, it will get escalated further, eventually involving SAFTI’s mediation attorneys working between the parties and resolving the complaint. If the mediators feel that fraud or misrepresentation are involved, or the firm is non-responsive, SAFTI will then escalate the issue with the evidence gathered to the appropriate authorities. Most complaints simply get escalated without the company having the opportunity to resolve it prior to the regulators being involved. This safety net is invaluable for a good provider. The active directory approach will open the veils within the industry and ensure transparency within the space. No more hiding. Either do the business right and be accountable or you will be forced out by your peers and the system they are driving. This is not some trade group, boys club or profit center for them. I didn’t receive a single cent from the groups that now own SAFTI. It isn’t about money to them, it’s about creating an honest and self regulating industry that is safe for all parties involved. Look, the guidelines are all laid out from a regulatory perspective, but it’s like a game of whack-a-mole. It needs a solid system with serious hooks. It also needs to accentuate the positive aspects of the industry and illuminate the good companies. How long have you been involved in the debt relief space? I would as always, welcome a call anytime to share my perspective and expertise in the space. Like I said, I hope the boys (and gals) at the new SAFTI make it everything I dreamed it could be. One of my favorite quotes: “It’s amazing how much can be accomplished when you no longer care who gets credit.”

  • Matt

    Thanks Steve for using us as a resource. Feel free to use us anytime. MSTARS is going to do our dead level best to reshape this industry from a leadership level. Here are the guidelines that EVERY company in EVERY debt relief vertical needs to follow. (Of course starting with the 20 Mandatory Disclosures)

    1. Be completely honest
    2. Be completely thorough
    3. Be completely accurate
    4. Be completely CONSUMER FOCUSED
    5. Adhere to ALL known state and federal laws (to the spirit of the law, not just the “letter” of it)
    6. If the job cannot be done, REFUND the money and do whatever is necessary to satisfy the client.
    7. Tackle and mitigate ALL consumer inquiries IMMEDIATELY and in a consumer focused manner.
    8. Treat every client as though they were your own family members.
    9. Do what you say you are going to do
    10. INSPECT what you EXPECT. Monitor and manage everything for excellence.
    11. Ensure a thoroughly educated client post enrollment into ANY program/service
    12. NO GREY AREAS. Shine a light on everything. Let the client make up his/her mind based on facts
    13. Be transparent about EVERYTHING
    14. Don’t take shortcuts

    I guess I better stop there. I think I could go on for far too many of these. The bottom line is that most debt relief “concepts” can work by theory. It’s whether or not you can put your money where your mouth is and prove your expertise in the service you are offering by performing the service as promised. The bottom line is that we all need to unite under these ethical guidelines: Truth, Transparency, Honesty, Excellence etc. I think if we can create unity and gain transparency across the verticals, we can certainly hold each other accountable and self-regulate. You can’t reason with greed, so those that are in this strictly for a buck need to be weeded out from within. The ones that can be saved should be by surrounding them with ethical business leaders in their space and holding them accountable. I would hope that people wouldn’t simply set out to be loopholers, lawbreakers, thieves and crooks. I guess time will tell. Evolution 2011 will be our biggest effort to accomplish real change in the industry. PS: For those of you that watched Damon, Steve and I engage in serious “discussions” about the industry, I want you to know that I still love Steve and Damon despite our professional differences. We are all human, we all have one shot at this life and the relationships are far more important than a difference in opinion. Gotta have Rhino skin if you want to play in the big leagues. If you want to be a part of evolving this industry into a bold, new, honest and transparent future, get to Evolution 2011. (There’s the plug). If anyone needs the 20 mandatory disclosure list, they are linked in PDF on our site. http://www.mstarsinc.com

    Matt Hearn-MSTARS

    • http://GetOutOfDebt.org Steve Rhode

      Big hug back at you.

      Warn the troops at Evolution, debt restructuring as presented so far is a stinker just by design. You can’t set the consumer up with unrealistic expectations and place them in a potion of being sued without full, open, and transparent consent based on real performance metrics.

      I agree completely with all your numbered points list. When you run debt restructure past that it’s a FAIL.

  • Anonymous

    The SAFTI program from MStars is a great checklist. It’s the only one I know of that really covers all the bases. If it were followed, our industry would not be the target to regulators that it currently is! 

    Props to Matt- 

    BTW, Convention MStars is having is August 21-23. Info is here: http://www.evolution2011.com/ 

  • DebtFree

    Do they get to put these on thier website?

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