A reader brought to my attention a post by Golden Financial Services titled Steve Rhode – Scam, Complaint, Illegal, Fraud or Applause. – Source
It did make me laugh since some in the debt relief industry criticize me for my post title asking consumers for feedback on companies yet Paul elected to use a similar format. Nice touch.
The post was allegedly written by Paul Paquin who has been named in several articles before.
Paul appears to raise a number of points which I will gladly address. But first, it is important to note that Paul has never bothered to respond and address any of the points raised in those articles to allow readers to hear from him and correct anything that might have been reported in error or that was incorrect. In fact in reading the attack piece by Paul I don’t see where he is claiming any of the information I’ve published is incorrect.
So if the published information is correct but not addressed then what is the issue? But it appears Paul made a conscious effort to not respond or assist the consumer who posted the complaint since he says, “I would laugh when he would try to bash our reputation, and it did not bother me at all.”
But unlike Paul, I will gladly respond to issues and criticisms raised.
Let’s see if I can hit the highlights.
“Steve Wrote Negatively About Golden Financial Services Several Times”
It is true I wrote some articles and published some consumer issues that named Golden Financial Services. If you want to see articles that mentioned Golden Financial Services, click here.
I don’t dispute the fact Golden Financial Services was mentioned in some articles. And I did express an opinion about some of the things I observed. But again, neither Paquin or Golden Financial Services responded to any of those articles and identified either any information that was incorrect, or assisted in remedying the situation with the consumer.
But I should also mention that a number of those articles were prompted by people in the debt relief industry who sent me marketing messages and recruitment emails they felt were disturbing. I did not go out and hunt down stories on Golden Financial Services.
The real question to answer here is if any points I raised which Paul perceived as being negative, were untrue? Were they? Which ones?
The Site Sells Consumer Information
Paquin makes the assertion the GetOutOfDebt.org site sells consumer information. He says, “It bothers me when consumers are being mislead and tricked into providing their personal and confidential information, that is then sold to a 3rd party debt settlement company.”
The problem with that statement is the site does not sell any consumer information like “leads.”
On the couple of forms where people can request help with specific issues, I say things like, “You are under NO OBLIGATION to use the assistance located for you by GetOutOfDebt.org. The information you give us on this form will be shared with internal and external parties to help you.” That form is used to help consumer find attorneys licensed in their state to assist with student loan issues.
But the information of consumers completing those forms is not sold and no commission or revenue is generated by the site from them.
That seems pretty clear the information on those specific forms will be shared to fulfill the request.
Paul is Confused How Google Ads Work
The post by Paquin says:
According to Google, “you make your website ad spaces available by pasting ad code on your site, and choose where you want the ads to appear.”
On the private policy page here http://getoutofdebt.org/terms/, it says “We have no input or control over what ads appear. Different ads may appear based on where you are surfing from or some other factor Google uses to determine ads. The ads are automatically generated by Google……”
OK Steve, don’t you think you should be disclosing to consumers that you have control of making your website available to AdSense ads and that you are compensated every time people click on those ads? If I am wrong in any way, then please let me know.
I am not even sure if he uses AdSense. I am trying to figure this out and it’s confusing, based on how he words his private policy page. I would think that he would want to make this clear and easy for consumers to understand.
There are several additional paragraphs following that initial sentence. However there is NO clarity in the fact that Steve Rhodes gets paid to have Google ads on his website and that he can control certain aspects of Google Ads including the fact that he can either make his website available for AdSense or not.
To answer that let’s go right back to the site terms where I say, “Since this site does not charge users or visitors any fee, nor sell any products or services the reality is that any income this site derives from advertising helps to pay for the reporting, research, and journalistic work we do, just as any newspaper, magazine, news operation, television channel, radio station, or publication is supported by advertising revenue. It is because of the ads that this site can do all the good work it does.”
The same terms also say, “Site visitors should exercise the same level of caution when selecting a merchant or provider from links or advertisements on this site as they would if they found the link elsewhere. The fact that an ad appears and is linked is NOT an endorsement from this site.”
To help people who don’t know how Google Ads work, we even say, “Google Ads – We have no input or control over what ads appear. Different ads may appear based on where you are surfing from or some other factor Google uses to determine ads. The ads are automatically generated by Google using some magic mojo but the ads are typically contextual, meaning that they are displayed by Google using the content of the page as a clue about what to display. It is doubtful the ads on this site will be for playground equipment, purple puppies, or evening wear. It is very possible it will be about something credit or debt related since the ads are picked contextually and that’s what we write about.”
Steve Hates Debt Settlement Companies
Again, Paul is incorrect. In fact if you go back to my 2008 public FTC testimony about debt settlement and debt relief companies you will see I was in favor of them. – Source
In that testimony I said, “A for-profit debt counseling or debt settlement industry in the U.S. would give consumers the opportunity to have groups want to move forward with new solutions, to lobby against creditor abuse, to fight for the consumers that are not well or properly served now, and to allow profit to attract the best and most talented staff.” I still feel applies today.
In my past with the non-profit we settled debt, and I still provide people with a resource if they want an opinion if debt settlement is right for them.
For the right person in the right situation, debt settlement is a viable option. But where debt settlement ran off the rails in the past years was when the solution was attempted to be mass marketed to everyone.
It is my opinion the best candidate for debt settlement is someone who would otherwise not be eligible for a chapter 7 bankruptcy and has cash on hand to settle.
Paul appears to be upset that a page on the website of Damon Day links to a couple of debt settlement companies. But he fails to notice, the link on the GetOutOfDebt.org website does not. Damon Day is a talented debt coach who provides independent advice for consumers who want to discuss their financial situation and what people do when they leave the GetOutOfDebt.org site is up to them.
Paul Does Not Apparently Like Like Damon Day
Paul’s post appears to take exception with Damon Day and his website. That is certainly his opinion to have. However, as I’ve said, Damon is a talented debt coach and when it comes to offering people fair, balanced, and personal advice based on their individual situation there are probably a small hand full of people who have the skills and experience to offer that kind of advice. It is my experience Damon is one of them, commissioned sales people are not.
If you are aware of other such independent debt coaches, like Damon, please post their information below. I’d like to learn about them.
Could This be a Million Dollar Lead Business?
Paul says, “Leads are being sold to debt settlement companies, that have no real backing or credentials.” The only problem is the site does not sell leads and I don’t believe Damon Day does either by his representation to me.
And in closing, to answer Paul’s question, “Could this be a million dollar lead business?” the answer is clearly “no.”