I’m about 17k in debt, and I throw away most mailers I receive. However, I had women knock on my door tonight in regards to Better Path Financial.
Have you ever heard of this place, and is it a scam? Better Path Financial? I can’t find any bad reviews, and yes, that’s a red flag, but I’d still like someone else opinion on these gets out of debt mailers.
An unsolicited knock on the door? That sounds like door-to-door marketing.
Ultimately you have to feel comfortable with whatever you decide to do.
When you talk to Better Path Financial you should make sure they discuss all your options to deal with your debt, including bankruptcy. Many companies attempt to steer people into solutions they sell instead of what is best for the consumer.
Are They Talking to You About Bankruptcy?
Determining if you should file bankruptcy has less to do with your current debt load than it does with your overall financial situation and what your future goals are.
According to the Batter Path Financial website, their solution “generally lasts between 6 to 48 months.” – Source
I did not find any reference to what their fees are. But compare this against a consumer bankruptcy that would cost about $2,000 and have you completely out of debt in about 3 months. Then you could get back to saving and investing for a better financial future.
Better Path Financial says, “In this time of digital everything, nothing compares to a conversation with someone face-to-face. Your Better Path representatives we will take you through a free financial evaluation of your current situation and together you will determine the best path to take you forward.”
I’m dubious about that. The face-to-face meeting is often used as a loophole to get around advanced fee-charging by some companies. I’m not saying that’s what Better Path Financial is doing. Still, there is no reason to have a face-to-face meeting when people like Debt Coach Damon Day successfully have in-depth telephone conversations about planning out an entire way forward.
What is the Truth?
Better Path Financial says, “Better Path Financial is a professional debt resolution company. Over the past few years, our team of expert representatives have helped relieve over 150 million dollars of debt for our clients.” – Source
But a quick look at the company HQ in Florida found an interesting fact. The company says their headquarters is located at 7333 Greenbriar Pkwy Orlando, FL 32819. The State of California states the company is actually registered in Delaware as an entity on January 14, 2021. – Source
The State of Florida says the company registered to do business there as a foreign corporation on January 19, 2021. – Source
The Florida paperwork says the name of the contact person is Stephanie Holland at thesmartcircle.com. The California paperwork says they are located at 4490 Von Karman Avenue, Newport Beach, CA, and that is the same address as a company named The Smart Circle. – Source
So it seems the company does not have years of experience in the field if they only started doing business in 2021. And then there is this.
Customer Reviews Raise Questions
The BBB website also says the company was incorporated in Delaware on January 19, 2021, and that was the date the business started.
The company has been registered to do business and, according to the BBB, has 304 customer reviews?
You can go back and read all the reviews here.
I found it odd that many of the reviews have a common theme and talk about how nice, patient, polite, friendly, kind, and professional the people who came to their homes were. The first review is on February 9, 2021.
But there is this one on February 19, 2021, that is interesting, “I’ve been with you guys for a year now, and I must say this program is phenomenal! Ernesto S is so reliable, and he’s very professional. He stops by periodically to check up on how I’m doing and keeps me updated on my progression through the program. I can’t thank him enough for stoping by 1 year ago. He’s changed my life forever and now I can buy my house in the near future. Thank you better path financial!!!!” How can they have been with them for more than a year when the business started in January of 2021?
On February 20, 2021, there is this review, “They solicited me at my home at 8pm at night when I was already in bed. They had fake badges and a laminated letter with somebody else’s name on it. All of their reviews are very recent and the company is listed as being very new. They claim to have resolved 150 million in debt so far but that seems unlikely. Nobody goes door to door. Especially without wearing a mask. Nick and the other guy was ready to strong arm me. They kept flashing the flashlight in my face like they were cops. I don’t think they’re legit and people should be aware. Nobody goes door to door selling you debt relief. It’s a red flag for a scam.” – Source
The company response states, “The fact that we’ve been able to relieve over $150 Million worth of debt in such a short period of time is a true testament to how hard our reps and the rest of our team work.” That would be a real feat to accomplish that goal in three months of being in business.
What the Federal Trade Commission Says
If the company or door-to-door marketing representatives are making claims about the results you should expect you should keep this advice from the FTC in mind.
- It’s illegal to charge upfront fees. You can’t collect any fees from a customer before you have settled or otherwise resolved the consumer’s debts. If you renegotiate a customer’s debts one after the other, you can collect a fee for each debt you’ve renegotiated, but you can’t front-load payments. You can require customers to set aside money in a dedicated account for your fees and for payments to creditors and debt collectors, but the new Rule places restrictions on those accounts to make sure customers are protected.
- You have to disclose certain information before signing people up for your services. Before people sign up, you must disclose fundamental aspects of your services, including how long it will take for them to get results, how much it will cost, the negative consequences that could result from using debt relief services, and key information about dedicated accounts, if you use them.
- You can’t misrepresent your services. The new Rule prohibits you from making false or unsubstantiated claims about your services.
Making Truthful and Substantiated Claims
The FTC also says, “If you provide debt relief services, it’s illegal to misrepresent any material aspect of your services, either explicitly or by implication. A material aspect of a debt relief service includes any information that is likely to affect someone’s decision to sign up for your program or to choose one program over another. Some examples of claims that would be material:
- the amount of money or the percentage of the debt someone may save by using your service;
- the amount of time necessary to get the results you represent;
- the amount of money or the percentage of each outstanding debt the customer must accumulate before you’ll begin your attempts to negotiate, settle or modify the terms with creditors;
- the amount of money or the percentage of each outstanding debt the customer must accumulate before you’ll make a bona fide offer to negotiate, settle or modify the terms with creditors;
- the effect of your service on the customer’s creditworthiness;
- the effect of your service on the collection efforts of any creditors or debt collectors;
- the percentage or number of customers who have gotten the results you represent; and
- whether your business is a bona fide nonprofit entity.
Here are several important requirements for making sure your savings claims are truthful and not deceptive:
- State the savings based on the customer’s debt when he or she signs up for the program. You may not inflate savings figures or percentages by including interest and fees the credit card company adds after a customer signs up for your program.
Example 8: Andy signs up with a debt relief service offered by Company H, owing $10,000 on his credit card. One year later, following negotiations with the credit card company, Company H negotiates a settlement allowing Andy to pay $6,000 to resolve the debt. However, since Andy enrolled, the credit card company has charged him interest and late fees totaling $2,000, so that Andy now owes $12,000. By getting a settlement for $6,000, Company H has saved Andy $4,000 ($10,000 minus $6,000) or 40% of the debt at the time of enrollment. It would be deceptive for Company H to claim to have saved Andy $6,000 ($12,000 minus $6,000) or 50% of his debt.
- Include the impact of your fees on the claimed savings. You may not inflate your savings claims by excluding the fees your customers paid you.
Example 9: Betty owes $10,000 on her credit card, and signs up with Company J’s debt relief service. Company J gets a settlement allowing Betty to pay $5,000 to resolve the debt. However, at the time of settlement, Company J charges Betty a $1,000 fee for its work. It would be deceptive for Company J to claim to have saved Betty $5,000 – or 50% of her debt – because Betty also had to pay $1,000 in fees. Instead, Company J may truthfully state Betty’s savings as $4,000 ($5,000 minus $1,000) or 40% of Betty’s debt.
- In calculating the results you’ve achieved over time, you must include customers who dropped out or otherwise failed to complete the program. Don’t base your savings claims only on customers who successfully completed your program.
Example 10: Company K had 10 customers signed up for its service. Each one had $10,000 in unpaid credit card debt for a total of $100,000. Five of the customers completed the program, and each saved $5,000 – for a total savings of $25,000. The remaining five customers dropped out of the program, each one still owing the $10,000 they owed when they signed up with the program. Taken together, Company K has saved its customers $25,000 – or 25% – of the total $100,000 debt they had when they signed up with the program. It would be deceptive for Company K to exclude the drop-outs and claim that it saved its customers 50% of their debt.
- Include all debts enrolled by your customers, not only those that have been settled successfully. In calculating your savings claim, you may not exclude accounts you failed to settle, even if the failure was due to customers dropping out of your service.
Example 11: Company L has 10 customers, and each of them enrolls two $1,000 debts in the program – totaling 20 debts or $20,000. Company L is able to settle 10 of the 20 debts, each for $500. However, it was unable to settle the remaining 10 debts before those customers either completed or dropped out of the program. Thus, Company L has saved its 10 customers $5,000 or 25% of their debts in the program. It would be deceptive for Company L to exclude the 10 accounts that weren’t settled and claim a savings rate of 50%.”
What is The Smart Circle?
I mentioned that Stephanie Holland with thesmartcircle.com was tied to the company registration in Florida. This gets interesting.
Here is what The Smart Circle website says:
“Who We Are: Smart Circle’s nationwide retail staffing programs and targeted canvassing programs outperform traditional marketing in customer acquisition, brand awareness and revenue goals.
What We Do: As a worldwide leader in face-to-face marketing and direct and outsourced sales, Smart Circle is privileged to work with clients ranging from Fortune 500 companies and nationally recognized brands to regional and local businesses.
How We Do It: With the Smart Circle Sales Network of independently owned and operated corporate distributors, we are able to implement and execute customized face-to-face sales and marketing solutions.”
When it comes to their sales network, they say, “We execute our unique face-to-face marketing programs and customer acquisition campaigns through our third-party sales network comprised of independently owned and operated corporate distributors and their respective sales representatives.” – Source
So are the people behind Better Path Financial door-to-door marketing people?
Scam or Not a Scam
Ultimately only you can decide who or what is a scam according to your qualifications.
I would recommend that anyone considering using such a company should read the following free guides and their own homework.
- The Ultimate Consumer Guide to Checking Out a Debt Relief Company Before You Sign On the Line
- 10 Must Do Steps to Find the Best Counseling or Settlement Company for You
- How to Check Out a Business or Company to Avoid Getting Scammed or Ripped Off
Some Points to Ponder
I don’t think it would be an unreasonable thought to wonder if the people knocking on doors are truly experienced debt relief financial professionals or commissioned salespeople trying to market a program.
I’m also inquisitive about what they claim is their success rate since they are not even a year old. For example, how many clients have had all their accounts fully settled or resolved?
From what I’ve read online, it does not sound as if the door knockers provide a comprehensive financial analysis as much as being very polite in pushing the product.
But at the end of the day, you should ask yourself what is the best solution for your situation and not just jump at a polite presentation.
Before you leap at any solution, you would suggest that you do your homework and talk to a credit counseling group, a local bankruptcy attorney, and maybe an independent debt coach like Damon Day, Michael Bovee, or someone else.
Only after gathering all the information will you make a decision that is right for you.
Please come back and comment with what you decide to do.
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