World Law Debt tells consumers it can reduce the amount they owe and help pay down debt. But, Better Business Bureau discovered the company’s practices often get consumers into legal trouble and drive them further into debt.
As of July 24, 2013, BBB has 34 reportable complaints for World Law Debt on its BBB Business Review. The company did not respond to 17 complaints and failed to resolve eight. Complainants allege they paid monthly fees into an account to be used to pay down their debt. No communication was made with creditors and large upfront fees were removed from the account. Some consumers further allege they were pursued by collection agencies and in some cases sued by their creditors as a result.
The company was recently the subject of several government actions in other states. In June 2013, attorneys general in North Carolina and Illinois filed action against World Law Debt and related companies, prohibiting them from doing business in their states. In July 2013, the Oregon Department of Justice and the Oregon Department of Consumer and Business Services obtained a court order prohibiting the companies from doing business in their state.
World Law Debt has connections to numerous assumed names and entities, including World Law Processing, Swift Rock Financial, Orion Processing and Clear Your Debt. These companies are individually managed by Shannon Scott and/or Derin Scott according to Texas Secretary of State filings.
Pary Spampanato of New Jersey signed on with World Law Debt hoping to consolidate debts she accumulated while being treated for a medical condition. She claimed to have paid the company more than $3,700 over several months, but her debt problems only got worse. She said she was not thinking clearly because of medical treatment she was receiving when she signed with World Law Debt. Now, she cannot get the company to refund her money.
“I’m a single parent,” Spampanato said. “I’ve been sick and I’m just trying to get back to work. I’ve been getting further and further in debt. I wanted to consolidate my debt. I signed an agreement with World Law Debt. They took $560 a month. Creditors started calling. They [World Law Debt] kept the money and it went into a hole. I’ve been trying to take care of it and avoid bankruptcy. It was a horrible, horrific experience. It put me in such a mess. I had to get a co-signer to buy a vehicle. I’ve never had to do that.”
Patricia DeKoeyer of Vermont said she got into debt and sought help from World Law Debt after receiving a pay cut at work. DeKoeyer said she paid the company $6,000, which was not applied to her debt and now she has to file for bankruptcy.
“I was not able to pay off my credit cards,” she said. “World Law Debt said they would negotiate my credit card debt down to a lower figure. They didn’t tell me they don’t talk to your creditors. They wait for collection agencies to send you notices. I called World Law Debt and said I can’t afford it. They told me I need to file Chapter 7 bankruptcy. They said the $6,000 I paid was all up front administrative fees and I couldn’t get it back. $48,000 was my total debt. The $6,000 could have gone toward my creditors.”
The Federal Trade Commission has these tips when deciding whether to work with a debt relief firm. Stay away from any company that:
- Promises unsecured debts can be paid off for pennies on the dollar. There is no guarantee that any creditor will accept partial payment of a legitimate debt. It’s best to contact your creditor directly and as soon as you are having problems making payments
- Requires substantial monthly service fees and demands payment of a percentage of what they’ve supposedly saved you. Most debt relief companies charge hefty fees for their services, including a fee to establish the account with the debt negotiator.
- Tells you to stop making payments to or communicating with your creditors. If you stop making payments on a credit card, expect late fees and interest to be added to the amount you owe each month. If you exceed your credit limit, expect additional fees and charges to be added. This can also hurt your credit score.
- Claims that creditors never sue people for not paying unsecured debts. Creditors may have the right to sue you to recover the money you owe. And sometimes when creditors win a lawsuit, they have the right to garnish your wages or put a lien on your home.
- Claims that they can remove accurate negative information from your credit report. No company or person can remove negative information from your credit report that is accurate and timely. It’s illegal.
Additionally, BBB recommends consumers:
- Start with trust. BBB Business Reviews on debt negotiation, consolidation, and elimination companies are available online for free at bbb.org.
- Beware of inflated offers. There is no easy fix for debt problems. Beware of companies that make inflated offers and claim to fix your debt quick and easy with little to no explanation or with little or no fees associated. There’s probably a hidden catch.
- Seek help from a non-profit credit counseling center: Credit counseling centers can provide guidance for little or no cost. Visit www.nfcc.org for the location of the nearest center.