The BBB recently released a copy of a couple of official looking debt settlement mailers labeled the U.S. Debt Reduction Initiative that appears to come from a government agency, Department of Consumer Debt. It’s all a lie.
So in order to get to the bottom of who is behind what I feel to be an intentionally deceptive mailer, I called one of the numbers on the mailer. You can listen to the call below. The identifying information is in the part before I’m put on hold. You can stop listening at the hold music.
I made it as far as the call center but they identified the number in the mailer as belonging to Legal Helpers Debt Resolution and Clear Debt Solution.
Apparently there is a relationship between Legal Helpers Debt Resolution, LLC and Clear Debt Solution, a proud TASC member. – Source. On the Legal Helpers Debt Resolution site they show a link to Clear Debt Solution. – Source
In my opinion this deceptive mailer is one of the most misleading I’ve seen. Not only does it clearly appear to come from a government agency but it uses phrases like:
- Status of Refund: Pending
- Form T-09-A
- Department of Consumer Debt
- Debt Relief Eligibility Notice
- Tax Year
- Balance Reduction Notification
- U.S. Debt Reduction Initiative
It is only down in the very fine print that a disclosure is given that the mailer is not associated with a government agency. In my opinion the mailer is CLEARLY intended to deceive recipients that it is an official government notice.
The mailer appears to clearly violate the advertising standards of The Association of Settlement Companies (TASC) who say:
Following are the recent clarifications regarding what TASC deems to be deceptive:
- Using any depiction of a government official, government seal, government document or other symbols or imagery designed to give the impression the advertisement or its content is related to the government.
- Using the terms “bailout,” “government program” or other terminology that implies or that gives the impression a debt settlement program is part of a government service or program.
- Using references to laws, acts or common names of laws (such as Consumer Credit Reform Act) that implies or gives the impression that a consumer has a legal remedy to settle or reduce debt.
- Any combination of the above concepts or terminology such that a reasonable consumer might believe the service being offered is related to the government.
And as of today as I write this, Clear Debt Solution is still a member of TASC. – Source
This mailer released by the BBB is shameful in my opinion. According to the BBB many people have received this or similar mailer labeled U.S. Debt Reduction Initiative.
Better Business Bureau has received multiple reports from local consumers who received a letter informing them they may be eligible for debt relief through their program.
The notification letter expresses urgency in responding immediately as this is a “FINAL NOTICE” of eligibility and no further notice will be sent. Although the name “US Debt Reduction Initiative” is on the letterhead the company is not approved or endorsed by a government agency.
Typically with debt settlement or negotiation services, the consumer pays an upfront fee to the debt settlement firm with the understanding that the company will try to negotiate a settlement with creditors for less than what is owed. – Source
These insanely deceptive government mailers must stop. Not only do they make the debt settlement industry, and TASC, look horrible, but they are attempting to mislead consumers in an effort to sell them upfront fee debt settlement services to line their own pockets through lies and advertising fraud.
Mailers like this demand tough debt settlement rules, legislation and regulation. And what is ironic is that the two mailers were sent out after the presentation of the Debt Settlement Consumer Protection Act of 2010. It is exactly as if these companies don’t give a damn about reining themselves in one bit.
Is profits over people the legacy the debt settlement industry really wants?
Update: June 10, 2010
Clear Debt Solution posted the following statement in the comments below.
I would like to personally thank Clear Debt Solution for taking this matter seriously and taking swift and decisive action to remedy it.
My suggestion Clear Debt Solution, best to check out the mailer BEFORE you sign up for marketing services.
On behalf of, and as a managing partner of Clear Debt Solution, I’d like to thank you for posting this information.
The mailer in question was not mailed out by Clear Debt Solution. It was created and mailed out by a third party Lead Generation company that charges a fee on a “per call” basis. The calls generated from the mailer go into a general pool of debt settlement companies and are then routed to any number of companies. We had never seen the mail piece before, and upon seeing it today, immediately terminated the relationship. The toll free number used is not a Clear Debt Solution number.
We take this matter very seriously, and absolutely do not condone the use of misleading marketing. We’re taking additional steps to ensure it never happens again.
Also, just to clarify the relationship between Clear Debt Solution and Legal Helpers Debt Resolution. Clear Debt Solution debt specialists screen and refer prospective leads to a number of groups, including Legal Helpers Debt Resolution. Legal Helpers Debt Resolution was in no way affiliated with this marketing, and none of this has been sanctioned by Legal Helpers Debt Resolution.
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