I haven’t talked a lot about debt consolidation here; matter of fact, I don’t think I’ve ever talked about it.

Debt consolidation pretty much means finding a way to take care of all your debt at once so that you can, hopefully, find some control on paying your bills off and still have some money for other things. There are basically three ways that debt consolidation can occur. One, you take out a loan of some kind, like a bank loan or a line of credit against your house. Two, you work with someone like Consumer Credit Counseling, who helps you to pay off your credit card bills and some other outstanding bills. Three, you go through a debt consolidation company.

This isn’t an official number, but based on my research, and I’ve done a lot of it, I’ve come to this conclusion; 95% of these debt consolidation companies are scams. Here’s how they all work. You go to them and they help you put together your list of debts. Then they tell you that you need to pay them a monthly amount, and a fee of so much of a percentage on top of that. They tell you that you won’t get any phone calls, that they’ll talk to your creditors, and that you’ll be out of debt in so many months.

That last part is the only part that’s actually true. They tell you to stop paying all your credit cards, and many of your other bills. What they don’t tell you is that you is that they want you to go into credit default on everything. You will get calls; you will be threatened with legal action. That’s exactly what they want to happen. After a year to 18 months, sometimes 24 months, they swoop in, call each carrier, make a deal to pay less than half of what you owe, take a percentage of what they “saved” you, then you get the rest. Indeed, your debt has been erased, but your credit is in the toilet. The only honest ones are those who tell you up front what’s going to happen, because none of them are going to call your creditors on your behalf, and even if they did, nothing can happen until you go into default; those are the rules.

Something that’s been added to the debt consolidation world is called “christian debt consolidation.” It purports itself to be an industry where its practices and ways of working with consumers is based on biblical principles, and therefore better for you than traditional debt consolidation companies.

Before I go any further, I want to mention that the word “christian” will be in small letters for the fakers, and large letters for those who truly believe in their religion.

What’s the real story? The real story is that most of them are the same as regular debt consolidation companies. They tell you that they’ll help you pay down debt at a specific rate, that you won’t have to file bankruptcy, that they can stop collection calls from coming your way, and that they’ll help you get better rates and eliminate over the limit fees.

Some of these christian debt consolidation companies will even tell you that, in order to take you on as one of their clients, you must sign up for religious studies, supposedly geared towards teaching you ways to stay out of debt based on biblical teachings. Those come at fees that are extra and separate from the fees you’re already being asked to pay for debt consolidation help.

I’m always suspect when I see certain industries catering to Christians directly on something that pretty much has nothing to do with religion at all. It’s a sneaky ploy to try to aim at a certain market that they know will usually be looking for someone purporting to be Christian themselves to work with.

What are some of those ploys? One company called Christian Debt Consolidators have a prayer on their site called “Steward’s Prayer.” There is no one steward’s prayer, though, and this one has nothing to do with finances. Another site, takes you to a blank page and asks you to click on a link to prove that you’re not a bot, and when you do, it takes you to another page that has nothing to do with debt consolidation, instead being a template page to apply for an online loan. And, unless you’re using Firefox, you won’t be able to just close the tab to get away from them.

Also, fees from these purported christian debt consolidation companies are traditionally higher than fees from other debt consolidation companies, which is easy to see why because, unfortunately, the Christian market has already proven themselves willing to pay more money towards Christian causes, whether they’ve been verified as legitimate or not, thanks to televangelists.

Of course, not all of these companies are scams, but you have to be careful. If they tell you to stop paying your credit card bills and send them the money instead, beware of a trap. True nonprofit Christian debt consolidation organizations will try to help you learn how to pay your bills, sometimes saying they’ll help you pay your bills in full, even if at a reduced rate. They will work more like Consumer Credit Counseling, truthfully talking to creditors on your behalf to try to get you better terms.

It’s always a buyer beware market, but if someone comes calling saying they’re representing Christianity, and that’s important to you, make them prove it, and with more than just words.

My opinion. Figure out what your debt is, put yourself on a budget, and if you need some help call all of your creditors and see what they can help you with. Trust me, especially in this economy, they’re willing to try to help.

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