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You Can Get Help

Debt counselling has been in South Africa since 2007, and hundreds of thousands of consumers have entered the debt review process since then.

Many have had wonderful success in getting repaying their debt and enjoyed working with their Debt Counsellor.  Unfortunately some consumers have horror stories about how bad their Debt Counsellor was!

If you are under financial strain and looking for a good Debt Counsellor, how do you find the right person to help you out?

Finding Help Online

These days, if you are looking for information, you probably just “Google it”.

If you go online and type in “debt review” or “debt counselling”, you are going to be presented with the usual first page results (with many hundreds more on the following results pages).

You will get at least 5 adverts trying to catch your eye, and maybe up to 8 other results on page 1.

So, if you ignore the sponsored adverts, and just use the rest of the first page as your remaining options, you are looking at approximately 8 out of the thousands of NCR registered Debt Counsellors in South Africa.

‘you are looking at approximately 8 out of the thousands of NCR registered Debt Counsellors in South Africa’

Maybe you will click one of those nice adverts and be whisked off to check out one of a small group of Debt Counsellors who can afford to pay to advertise on Google, or maybe you are the type of person who searches till page 4.

Either way, the pool of candidates you are looking at is small compared to the large number of options you really have.

This is a very popular option, it makes sense to head online and checking out these high ranked websites.

(Anti) Social Media

Many of us spend a lot of our time online on social media.

This is another place you might come into contact with adverts for assistance with your debt (don’t feel too special, basically everyone has debt, nobody is spying on your bank account).

The challenge is that you might stumble across some pretty misleading, and even blatantly wrong information. It can range anywhere from unrealistic promises, to scammers, to those who have an agenda against debt counselling, it is a real mixed bag.

It is hard to know, what is legitimate and what is a scam?

Like with anything on social media these days, you have to use discernment and check the facts.

Word of Mouth

You will seldom find a more reliable referral than from someone who is, or has been, successfully going through the process.

If the person you are speaking to knows you, and they are getting decent help (and are so happy with the help they are getting that they tell you about it) well, that’s huge.

People don’t like to talk about their debt, or needing help with their finances. So, if someone tells you about how much they love their Debt Counsellor (ok, love might be a bit strong) then pay attention.

They will have first-hand experience, not only about the process but about the Debt Counsellor in question and how they do business. You may be able to ask questions about the process and see what has been good or bad for them.

Keep in mind though, just because one Debt Counsellor gave your acquaintance great service, does not always guarantee they are the exact right fit for you.  Nevertheless, it is one of the best ways to find someone to help.

Make Contact And See If It Is A Good Fit

Once you have someone who you think might be right for you, it is time to make contact and see what they are really like.

You want to see if they communicate well. You want to know if they are easy to reach. You want to see who deals with you when you call them or visit their offices.

How do they treat you? Are they kind? Polite? Professional?

Do they tell you all about the process or just pressurise you to sign up?

Do they discuss the legal side of debt review?

Do they tell you about how credit providers might react to your application?

Do they gloss over the fact that it is a big change to a “cash” lifestyle (instead of credit and plastic)?

Do they take their time and really explain the entire process to you, in detail?

Do they find out from you about how you got into trouble or just rush to get your signature on paper?

Do they have their NCR registration certificate displayed on the wall or their website?

Do they make promises that seem too good to be true?

Do they advise you use a PDA for the money side of things? *

Do they ask you to pay an upfront fee or fees into their bank account? If so, please run, as this is almost definitely a scam!

You may prefer to have a Debt Counsellor who is super chatty and friendly, or you may prefer to have someone who is strictly business, it’s your choice. You need to find someone who is a good fit for YOU.

* you don’t have to use a Payment Distribution Agent but most people find it is so much easier to use one and makes life much, much easier.

Take Your Time

You do not have to sign up with the first person you speak to.

Debt review is often a 5 year process (for most people). So, ask yourself if this is someone you want to deal with for the next 5 years and entrust with a very important part of your life.

Don’t rush into signing up with someone without doing your homework and fully understanding the consequences of debt review. This is especially true if someone calls you (as opposed to you finding them).

Do Your Homework

If you do find someone who you think may be able to help you out, then you should not rush into starting the process.

Take your time and do your homework before you commit.

One thing you can do is visit the NCR’s website and click on their list of ‘registrants’. You can then type in the name of the Debt Counsellor you spoke to. The NCR lists both the Debt Counsellor’s personal name (Debt Counsellors are individuals not corporations) and their trading name (company name).

If you do not find their name on that NCR list, then you are not talking to a real Debt Counsellor, and need to be careful of getting scammed. If you find it hard to search their database, then you can also give the NCR a call and ask them to look up the name for you.

Debt Counsellors have a register number with the NCR that you can ask for, or should be in their email signatures and on their website. Likewise, they have an annual certificate that you can ask to see.

Reviews & Other Resources

You can also visit sites like Hello Peter, and check out if there are many realistic complaints against the Debt Counsellor or their practice.

There are often complaints from disgruntled people, about almost every business across SA. These days lots of people like to complain, even if they are the ones who caused the problem or, for example, a credit provider did something bad to them during the process. Check to see if the Debt Counsellor themselves is being called out for something real, or if the problem was caused by someone else. Take some time to see if any bad reviews are actually based on fact.

If there are many bad reviews that all point to the same problem then, beware. Particularly, watch out for practices where people say it is hard to reach them or they struggled to talk to the actual Debt Counsellor.

‘Check out other online resources like the Debt Review Awards website’

Check out other online resources like the Debt Review Awards website. This is an industry peer review program that recognises hard work and excellence in the debt review space. You can find practices and individuals who have repeatedly been recognised by their peers over the years.

Please do beware of some marketing sites that masquerade as top rated Debt Counsellors. These marketing sites are normally easy to spot in expensive paid Google adverts when searching for debt review. Information on such sites may be questionable.

Do You Want To be Debt Free? Really?

It may seem like a weird question but many people actually just want the collections people to stop pestering them, and they don’t really want to get out of debt.

They love their debt.

Many people secretly love overspending (and digging themselves deeper and deeper into financial trouble). It makes them feel special and powerful.

Debt counselling and debt review is only right for you if you really want to get out of debt. It takes work and determination. It’s not a way to save a few bucks on payments each month, or a temporary fix. It is a total revamp of your financial spending habits and lifestyle.

Please don’t start the process if you are not committed to this outcome. Otherwise, you will soon become disillusioned with living a financially stable lifestyle, and will become really desperate to go back to your financially self-sabotaging ways.

Good Help Is Not Too Hard To Find

The debt review process is great.

In fact, it is so great that when most people hear about it, they see the amazing benefits and often sign up with the first person they talk to.

Sadly, many people do so without doing their homework and fully understanding the impact it is going to have on their lives. To get completely out of debt takes time and effort, and surprise, surprise not many of us are good at that sort of thing.

So, when considering debt review and getting help from a Debt Counsellor, be sure to do your homework about (1) the process itself and (2) the person who you decide to sign up with. Make sure they are a good fit and communicate well. It is also very important to make sure they are registered with the NCR, and explain to you both the benefits and challenges that getting out of debt involves.

Good help is not too hard to find.

Thousands of NCR Registered Debt Counsellors across the country are ready to give you amazing assistance to become debt free.

Note: To read the rest of this issue of Debtfree magazine click next/previous