Reading Time: 9 minutes

Trust Must Be Earned

As children we first learn to trust our parents. We develop this trust based on their loving attention and care for us, they feed us, come when we call and catch us when we fall.

They provide a basis for all our future dealings with other people.

Then later, as we age, we learn to trust our friends, our friends’ parents and our teachers.

Along the way, we also learn who not to trust. We get hurt, tricked and lied to. People break our heart and our trust. We make deals and agreements with people and they don’t stick to their side of the bargain.

This is why trust has to be earned.

When Times Are Hard

They say: when days are dark friends are few.

Perhaps you have experienced this when you hit hard financial times. Some of your friends disappeared and sometimes institutions you have banked with for years and years suddenly turned on you and set their collections agents on you.

This behaviour hurts your feelings and breaks trust.

If your financial situation becomes very difficult to deal with, then getting professional advice is a good idea. Turning to NCR registered Debt Counsellors who are trained to help can be just what you need

Getting Help

The process of finding the right Debt Counsellor is an important one, and there are many factors which you should take into account. You need to find the right person to help.

Do your homework before you commit. Ask to see the NCR certificate from whoever you talk to, and make good choices!

‘Do your homework before you commit’

When you do eventually find the right person to help, and you sign those forms and send in all your information and get that form 17.1 that says you have applied for debt review, it can feel like a huge weight has been lifted from our shoulders.

Now instead of trying to deal with all the stress and challenges on your own, you now have somebody, who can be trusted, in your corner. They help to put an end to the persistent collections calls, ease your fear of the Sherriff showing up at your door to take all your stuff, and you no longer have to be scared of letters of demand in the post of by email.


The challenge is that you suddenly have to trust this individual or debt counselling practice a lot. Your entire financial future depends on it.

Also, the Debt Counsellor is going to be asking you to make some big changes. What you were doing, was not working, so it’s time to make a change.

You might be asked to stick to a new, improved budget. You may be advised about where and how to bank. You might need to make serious changes to your life – maybe where you live or how you live, in order to cover the debt repayments.

All this is hard.

Trusting The Plan

Other than a new budget, you will also be presented with a whole new plan on how to settle your debts.

Normally, that new plan and repayment figure is much more manageable than before (maybe even half of what you used to pay). And what’s more, in a few years, if you stick to the plan, your debts will be totally gone.


But the snag is that for a long time you have been making your own plans. You have been doing whatever you want, and now you are asked to stick closely to this tight budget and to make payments every month without missing a month.

This is a big change to how you may have done things before.

Paying The Money

Debt Counsellors never actually touch your money.

They help to structure the plan for the courts and they give instructions to the people who do handle the money, but they never touch it themselves.

The National Credit Regulator has registered 4 companies who handle the payment side of debt review. You make one payment to them, and then they split up the money and distribute it on the right day, to the right account, using the right references. These companies are the Payment Distribution Agencies or PDAs.

‘These companies are the Payment Distribution Agencies’

So, you deposit money into this new account, or set up the debit, and you have to trust that your money will get to your credit providers.

It's Hard To Trust A Stranger

Even if we have done our homework, and even if we know that the person who is helping us is a professional Debt Counsellor with a good reputation, it takes a lot of trust to allow a relative stranger to tell you how to live and what to do.

We listen because we are desperate, and the situation is out of control as is. Surely anything is better than living like that.

‘it takes a lot of trust to allow a relative stranger to tell you how to live and what to do’

But the truth is that we have had limited dealings with this new person and with the entire debt review process and the debt counselling practice so we might find it hard to trust when certain situations arise, especially at first.

Let’s briefly look at some things that might test our trust and make us second guess the debt review process or Debt Counsellor.


You may get a call from a collections agent who wants money.

You calmly tell them that you are under debt review and they must talk to your Debt Counsellor. It gives us a feeling of satisfaction after all those pesky calls to finally be able to tell someone essentially: “talk to my lawyer”.  You will probably feel vindicated that you have the situation under control.

But the collections agent might say something to the effect that debt review isn’t showing on their system, or that the payments you have made are not reflecting.

Immediately your feeling of comfort is shattered, you may begin to panic.

Here are some things to keep in mind:

The call may call right at the start of the process when you have only paid money through the PDA once or twice.  Debt review is a legal process and all your credit providers know that in month 1 and 2, your payment amount is set aside to cover professional fees for the Debt Counsellor, and your attorney. This is normal.

If someone says they are calling from the “bank” and they are not getting any money, stop and think about it.  How can that be? You know you paid the money. You know that the National Credit Regulator checks on the 4 registered PDAs each quarter and audits them regularly.

Also, you know that the Debt Counsellor doesn’t touch the money so, they are not stealing it.

You are probably dealing with a collections agent, who works for commission based on however much they can get people to pay immediately. This can motivate them to say things that are less than accurate.

Don’t stop trusting your NCR registered Debt Counsellor because of a 2 minute phone call from a stranger. That would be foolish, rather get all the facts and speak to your Debt Counsellor before doing anything rash.

When Your Debt Counsellor IS Not Great at Communicating

It can be stressful if your Debt Counsellor is not great at communicating.

Good Debt Counsellors will keep in regular contact with you, and make sure you get updates about the process.

Some Debt Counsellors are however, not that great at staying in touch, and not that great at keeping you updated.

‘Some Debt Counsellors are however, not that great at staying in touch, and not that great at keeping you updated’

If they are bad at communicating with you then…improve your communication with them.

Be specific and explain the situation in a detailed way that makes what you need and want very clear. Don’t give up on the process because they are very busy and take a while to return your calls or emails.

Pester them if you must, but stay in touch and always let them know if you change email address or phone numbers.


What if you get a statement from your creditor that shows you owe more money than before?

What if you have been paying for a while, and the debt is not getting considerably smaller? Should you start to doubt your Debt Counsellor?

It is important to realise that because your creditor charges interest, each month your debt can grow if you pay less than the amount of monthly interest.

Normally, this will not be part of your debt repayment plan. It is very unlikely.

Right at the start of the process however, you will cover the Debt Counsellor’s fee and the attorney’s fees in month 1 and 2. This means that your debts might climb slightly those first two months. Still, if you see a balance going up, you should definitely talk to your Debt Counsellor because maybe the credit provider has not updated their computer system to reflect the correct figures under debt review.


If you have been paying for around two years and you are seeing that the debt is taking a long time to reduce, you may begin to feel your Debt Counsellor is not doing their job. You begin to lose trust in them.

Before you decide to do anything drastic, go have a look at the official court order for debt restructuring (ask for it, if you don’t have a copy). The court order shows you how many months each debt will take to be paid off at the new arrangements. Often these plans are set out over 60 months (or 5 years).

Debt review is often designed so that all your credit providers get paid a fair amount each month. This can mean that even accounts with small balances take a long time to get paid because they only receive small monthly payments. If you are able to, then you can help speed things up and begin to settle your debts sooner.


If you are able to pay off a small debt, then funds that were being allocated to that account can now be shifted to another small debt.

This can settle that debt faster too. And so, more funds can be allocated to another account, this snowball effect can make a big difference.

Learn Who To Trust

Most important is to get to know more about the debt review process and how it works.

Educate yourself.  Get to know more about your Debt Counsellor. Don’t let them be a mystery to you.

Learn their name, their email address. Learn where your Debt Counsellor’s offices are, who works there, go visit them or interact with them regularly.

This will build your trust in these professional strangers, who are helping you get out of a bad situation.

Learn Who Not To Trust

Please beware of trusting a total stranger who calls and says strange things about your debt review that may not be true.

Also please beware of anyone who calls you and says that you can get out of debt review sooner…as long as you pay money into a different bank account.

Always contact your Debt Counsellor if you get a call like that. It might be a scammer who wants you to pay money into their account, guess what happens if you do that…nothing good.

‘If you have doubts or concerns about anything during the debt review process, go to your Debt Counsellor and discuss matters with them’

If you have doubts or concerns about anything during the debt review process, go to your Debt Counsellor and discuss matters with them.

Beware of strangers and learn to trust your Debt Counsellor.

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