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The first-person story of one woman’s experience with a debt relief scam – and the lawyer who helped her.



My name is Dorothy Council, and I'm 84 years old. I came to Philadelphia in '53 after I graduated from high school, and I've been here ever since. Well, I love this neighborhood-- the west side of Philadelphia.

Ms. Dorothy Council came to community legal services one morning because she felt that she could no longer afford the monthly payments that she was being asked to pay to a debt settlement company.

The company promised to pay my credit cards. They advertised on TV.

Oftentimes, people hear advertisements on television or the radio for debt settlement agencies, and they leap at it. At first, Ms. Council was a little bit embarrassed when she realized that the money that she was sending to the debt settlement company was not in fact going to her credit cards but instead was going into their pockets. Unfortunately by then, she had sent over $2,000 to the debt settlement company.

When I found out that nobody was paying, I got upset. The credit card company called me, and I said, why are you calling me? They said, we're calling you because you haven't paid on your credit card. I said, oh yes, I have-- there's a company there I got to pay my bill and said they've been taken $200 a month out of the bank.

This is not just something that happened to Ms. Council, but many people fall prey to these debt settlement companies. We were able to work out a solution where she was no longer required to make the payments every month to the debt settlement companies. People should be very careful about entering into agreements with debt settlement companies. If you have any questions about it, talk to somebody who you trust, whether it's a family member or friend.

There's a lot of people out here to help you. I told a lot of people that. Get together and talk about things.

If you have a problem with a debt settlement company, contact the Federal Trade Commission, a nonprofit credit counseling agency, or your local legal aid office.