I get a lot of tips and emails from readers. What you will find below is one very detailed email I received from a reader recently that talks about their frustration with a number of companies.
The reason I am posting this email is because it is the second time I’ve heard a similar story in two days from two different people. It’s either irony or a sign to share this with you.
If you have any advice or suggestions for this consumer, please post them in the comments section below.
You are not alone. I'm here to help. There is no need to suffer in silence. We can get through this. Tomorrow can be better than today. Don't give up.
Dear Mr. Rhode,
I am writing to you on a theme very similar to what others have posted on your site: being misled and cheated by debt consolidation programs.
Back in April of last year, a friend of mine asked me if I had any high balances that I needed to payoff, as he know I was going through some financial hard times. So I asked him to find a reputable company that would handle the consolidation of my debts.
I joined the program, with my friend handling the accounting and paperwork with the debt relief agency. After the first few months, I noticed that the payout of my monthly payment through Noteworld was being dispersed as admin fees, origination fees, maintenance fees.
I had the phone number to the ESP Solutions Company as well as online access to my account. I tried several times to reach them; however I only got their voicemail (even during business hours) but never received any calls back. I also went into the online tool, where they have a feature to send messages through their tool. I did this several times with no responses.
As I was doing my due diligence, at the same time I asked my friend to look into the matter of the money being dispersed. He too attempted to contact them, with no avail. Note that I did not receive a contract from the debt relief agency, ESP Solutions (so I was led to believe that they were a debt relief agency, only to find out they developed the accounting software) but rather got a welcome package that contained information such as my online ID, some basic instructions as to how to go about using their legal counsel to assist with this debt consolidation, matters concerning sending letters to the creditors to cease and desist calls or collection attempts, as I was part of a debt consolidation program.
Now here comes the not too fun part. Just about 2 months ago, I got a summons taped to my front door. Seeing this, I panicked and immediately called my friend. Within 2 days, he came over to my house to review the summons and he said that he would take this to the debt agency. As he was working on my behalf, I trusted that the summons would be taken care of.
A month into the receipt of the Summons, there were perhaps two calls made the debt agency to the creditor, trying to work out a debt. The best negotiations made ended up with a balance due that was more than the balance I owed.
A few weeks went by, and there were no re-negotiations between the agency and the creditor. At this point I told my friend that the matter will become serious as many actions can be taken based upon the summons, such as garnishments of salary, hold on assets and funding belong to me.
I had at this point no choice but to negotiate myself with the creditor and put a hold on the summons, by making monthly payments, and then making a settlement offer when I have enough funds secure. At least this put me out of the judgment route.
The next step I took was to have a meeting with the creditor- this would be the first time I would meet face to face with a real person. My friend went with me. When we got there, I told the debt representative that I wanted to cancel and get a refund back on the amount that was supposedly kept in a trust fund with Noteworld. He said that he would gladly cancel the contract, but that I needed to contact the debt relief agency to get the refund back. My question to him was “Are you not the debt relief agency? Do you not work with ESP Solutions?” He said that he only sold the ESP software and that was the extent of his involvement.
I asked for the contract that I supposedly signed. He printed out the contract (note that this is the first time I’m seeing the contract) and the paper listed my friend as the counselor and software agent. The header of the contract showed “Credit Care Corp.” When I saw this, I asked him “Are you not Credit Care Corp?” He said, “Yes I am, but I sell software only?”
I asked “Did you not withdraw money from the Noteworld account” He said “No, the major portion of the monthly payment was taken by P&E solutions and some went to FBL Associates”. The conversation went sour, as I insisted on the refund and the debt agent kept on denying that he withdrew any money from the escrow account. Before this first sit down, I prepared all the Noteworld account information. It turns out that out of $256 that I was paying monthly, about $191 went to “Admin fee” and other charges such as maintenance fees, origination fees also was taken from this monthly payment.
Now, a few months when I looked at my balance using the ESP software, it said that I paid around $1300 of which only $222 was going to the settlement amount. The debt representative had no idea about these figures and nor did my friend. I also called NoteWorld and asked them where my funds were allocated to. Their answer: P&E Solution. I asked them again, “Who is the local branch of P&E solutions”. Noteworld’s response: “Credit Care Corp.”- in Jackson Heights, Queens, NY. Of course it hit me that Credit Care was indeed taking the funds and I was being lied to directly at my face during the meeting with the rep. from Credit Care Corp.
I have already made three calls to the representative to get my refund. One of his excuses was that he is busy with clients or that he needs to pull my file and discuss commissions split with my friend, who when I told him this knew nothing about any commissions split.
At the end of the day, I lost $2348 (which includes a processing fee of $300) which I may never see again [note that this is higher than the amount according to the ESP software- the higher amount is based on banking statement showing this amount going to Noteworld, so somehow the remaining balance went somewhere, possibly to the debt consolidation company. However I will continue to make calls to Credit Care Corp and insist on my refund. And this demand for refund is based on the fact that this agency did not do what it was paid to do as well as misleading and mishandling my case to the creditor.
Here is the most important point to this whole fiasco. After reading many of the horror stories that client shave gone through, I noticed that company names that I dealt with such as NoteWorld, ESP Solutions, P&E Solutions, Credit Care Corp, Credit Care Pro are all taking the piece of the pie. All of these companies had a hand in my debt consolidation program.
One thing I did was to do some damage control: 1. called my bank from which these companies were indirectly taking from the Noteworld account and out stop payments not only on Noteworld, but all of the previously mentioned companies. 2. Created a new banking account. 3. I will file a complaint with BBB and any other government agencies that I ask if you can kindly provide me.
My Advice: Follow this entire process to get your best shot at a refund.
Thank You for providing such valuable insight and real life accounts and status of these suspicious companies that we all should be aware about. I hope this information as well as others that have provided similar information will put a stop to these misleading companies and bring some financial relief to us as clients.