The Internet has been an excellent way for consumers to close the information gap in a variety of industries from used car sales, to life insurance, to funeral homes. Debt consolidation companies are no exception here. Customers (both the satisfied and dissatisfied varieties) can easily sound off about their pleasure or pain in dealing with any company promising to consolidate debt.
The demand of debt consolidation is real and growing. With millions of Americans losing their jobs, many are finding that the weight of the bills is greater than they can bear, leading them to seek help from anyone offering. Of course, this has lead to the rise of hucksters and con artists taking advantage of desperate consumers. Online forums empower the consumer to find out who they can trust, but the system isn’t perfect.
The anonymity inherent in online activity is its greatest hobgoblin because “consumer information” forums aren’t always reliable. Competing companies can post negative items about their rivals without any accountability, posing as consumers who have been “ripped off.” Some sites pose as consumer watchdogs that are really just off-shore extortion rackets hoping to get money from companies they negatively report on, even though their reports have no basis in reality.
To be sure, plenty of forums are full of reliable reports from real people sharing their real experiences. Here are some tips for sifting the authentic from the phony.
First, begin with watchdog sites you know you can trust. Check with the Better Business Bureau. Complaints channeled through the BBB are screened and resolved, giving consumers a good idea of how good a service is, and how responsive they are to dissatisfied customers.
Second, whatever you read about a debt consolidation company, make sure that other customers can verify having similar experiences with them. One person may just have an axe to grind. A crowd of angry customers aren’t likely to be making things up.
Take what you read online with a generous grain of salt.