A tipster (send in your tips here) recently sent in the following robocall they had received.
The robocall led me to secret shop the “certified non-profit agency” that had already approved me. The recorded message instructs callers to dial 800-706-6208.
As you will read in the transcript below, when I questioned the sales representative about their bad reputation as Financial Freedom with the BBB, he says that Financial Freedom is their slogan, and not the name of the company. Instead he then discloses the company is really Southeast Trust, located in Florida. Southeast Trust is not a non-profit organization.
Two different representatives told me they were nonprofit, which they are not. One representative told me the program would help my credit, which is in violation of the Credit Repair Organizations Act.
Overall, a double thumbs down grade for accuracy and compliance.
Who Are the Players?
The State of Florida list no company registered under the name Financial Freedom Credit Counseling and no company registered to do business in Florida under that fictitious name. The only other listings I found at that address were for The Debt School and Biker Bettys.
The BBB now gives Southeast Trust, located at 4700 Hiatus Rd, Suite 256, Sunrise, FL 33351 a D- rating. – Source
Southeast Trust is an LLC under Paul Wexler and has had a history of different names.
The company was formed in 2005 as The Debt School. – Source
In August 2005 the name was changed to Southeast Trust, LLC. – H0007101
In 2009 after the company was reinstated another filing was made to change the name to Southeast Trust. – Source
The last annual report shows Paul Wexler is the only member of the LLC and that it is not a non-profit. – Source
A search of IRS approved non-profit agencies found no companies by the name of Financial Freedom Credit Counseling or Southeast Trust.
Financial Freedom. Southeast Trust Transcript
Good afternoon, thank you for calling Financial Freedom Customer Care Center. This is [redacted]. Are you calling because you are concerned about your debt?
Steve: Yes, I am.
Steve: Yes. Hello?
Female: Are you calling because you are concerned about your debt?
Steve: Yes, I am.
Female: Okay, sir our organization is dedicated to helping folks regain their financial freedom and the program is designed for people with at least $5,000 in unsecured debt usually involving major credit cards, and then plus the interest rates they are paying are at least nine percent and usually higher, would that include you?
Steve: Yes, it would.
Female: Okay. Great. I’m glad you called us today. May I have your name, please?
Steve: Well, can you tell me before I’m kind of concerned about giving out personal information without knowing who you are.
Female: Okay so this is a very special program sponsored by our nonprofit credit counseling bureau?
Steve: Yeah, what’s their name?
Female: This is Financial Freedom Customer Care Center, Financial Freedom.
Steve: Oh the nonprofit name is Financial Freedom.
Female: Financial Freedom, yes, sir.
Steve: Okay. Where are you guys located?
Female: Virginia Beach, Florida.
Steve: Virginia Beach?
Female: No, D-A-N-I-A.
Female: Beach Florida.
Female: All right. Sorry.
Steve: And so you guys are the nonprofit?
Female: Yes, sir. All I do in this department here is I see if you qualify and then I would transfer you to the certified credit counselor and they would have all that information I don’t have access to any of that information. I see if you qualify by getting your name, number and the amount of your debt and how many cards you have and then I transfer you to the certified credit counselor.
Steve: Okay. All right. So my name is [redacted].
Female: All right sir and then I’m just gonna go over a quick couple of items and then I can go ahead and transfer you to a certified credit counselor right away.
Female: It’ll just take a second. You indicated that you qualify for your program based on the unsecured debt of at least $5,000, is that correct?
Female: Okay and what is the dollar amount of your debt?
Steve: $95,000. So I kind of made the hurdle.
Female: Okay. You said, $95,000 in credit card debt?
Female: Okay and do you have at least one major credit card you are concerned about?
Steve: Well, my Discover Card.
Female: Discover, okay. And how many credit cards do you have total, then?
Steve: I think I’ve got about six.
Female: Six? Okay and about what interest rate are you paying? Is it up around nine percent or maybe even a little bit higher?
Steve: Oh, no, it’s higher than that. It’s like 18 percent.
Female: On all of them or
Steve: Well, I’d say that’s probably the average.
Female: Is there any that’s below nine?
Steve: No, no way.
Female: Okay. All right well then I can go ahead with your permission and transfer you over to the certified credit counselors to see if he or she can help you?
Steve: Yeah, thank you.
Female: Okay, no problem. Thank you. One moment please.
Female: Hello, [redacted]?
Female: Thank you so much for holding, sir, and I do have [redacted] a certified credit counselor on the line, who is going to further assist you.
Female: You have a great day.
Steve: Okay thank you.
Male: Oh, hi. Hi, [redacted]. My name is [redacted] and you wish to count that down. My only question is to see if we can help you out on this nonprofit program.
Male: What are the interest rates you’re yielding on these cards, just roughly?
Steve: Yeah, I’d say that the average rate right now I don’t have the statements in front of me, but the average is like 18 percent.
Male: Oh, really?
Male: So the rates are pretty high?
Male: Well, very simple, what we do in here is consolidating all unsecured debts with the credit card companies. We put them all into one simple payment. They reduce the interest rates anywhere between nine to zero percent depending on who you have. Okay? That’s the reason why Kathy said on average
Male: As low as 1.5 and the only stipulation here the accounts would close. So you cannot use the cards.
Steve: Would that hurt my credit?
Male: Not at all.
Male: You’re paying back your full principle at a reduction of interest. If you wish to keep a two cards or one for an emergency that would be advised.
Steve: All right. Will this help my credit? I mean will
Male: It will because you’re paying off your debts within three to five years. As opposed to never.
Male: Okay. I’ve been doing this for ten years. I know pretty much if you’re at 18 percent, 15, 20 years to pay off each account.
Male: Depending on the balance. The only information I need to apply the guidelines and show you where your payment drops down to plus the rates are simply the names of the card companies. A rough guesstimate on the balance
Male: And that’s pretty much it.
Steve: Well, before I give you more of my personal information, can you tell me more about your company, because I just got this call and spoke to it sounded like a yeah.
Male: Okay. We are a not for profit organization, so that’s the reason why the banks can that’s the reason why they reduce the rates for us and we apply the guidelines, because they get a tax write off for us for disbursing the payments out.
Steve: So are you
Male: We are 501 C 3.
Steve: Okay, so Financial Freedom is a nonprofit?
Male: Absolutely. We’re backed by Equifax, Better Business Bureau and the card companies. It is preapproved.
Steve: Okay. So is this a loan?
Male: No, monthly would make one payment to us. We disburse the payments out each month to all the accounts. The car companies they’ll continue to send you statements, but the statements would reflect the payments being applied and any rates on the statements each month.
Steve: Well, my biggest concern is my Discover Card.
Steve: So I owe about almost about $20,000 on my Discover Card. So you can get me good rates on that?
Male: That would be at six percent, 6.9 for Discover.
Steve: Okay. So is there any cost to get going?
Male: There is a monthly processing fee, just to pay on nonprofit side to disburse all of your payments out that’s gonna be included in your monthly payment and that’s what I’ll quote you today. It’s anywhere between it’s either $49.59 or $69 per month.
Steve: Why is it different?
Male: Depending on how much you owe, which state you live in, certain guidelines criteria.
Steve: Okay. All right.
Male: We’ll let you know.
Steve: While we’ve been on the phone I was just looking you up to find out who I was dealing with.
Steve: Can you help me to understand why you have an F rating with the BBB?
Male: Who did you go to? Did you go to Financial Freedom?
Male: That’s where you went to?
Male: Okay, no, no, no. Financial Freedom that’s our slogan to become debt free. Just go to Southeast Trust I’m sorry. Southeast Trust and we’re in the city of Sunrise in the state of Florida. We have about 58 complaints. That’s it. We have 15,000 clients. And we’ve been here for 11 years, 12 years and I’ve been here nine years. Go to Southeast Trust in Sunrise.
Steve: In Sunrise, Florida. Yeah. You got a C rating.
Steve: Yeah. So [redacted] who I was talking to first said that you guys were Financial Freedom Credit Counseling in Dania Beach?
Male: Dania Beach that was the first office that we opened years ago about ten to 12 years ago, so if you look on our Better Business Bureau it should show Dania Beach maybe or Sunrise Florida.
Steve: Okay. Okay. Well, thank you very much. I’m gonna think about it.
Male: All right, no problem.
Steve: All right.
Male: Have a great day.
[End of Audio]