SAN ANTONIO – When Richard Booher got an official-looking letter marked "important notice," it looked like it was his lucky day.
"It's from the client negotiation department," he said.
The letter said Booher's creditor is now willing to negotiate a reduction of a $22,000 debt.
"It didn't say who it was, but it made me a really good deal," Booher said.
The letter said he was eligible to cut his debt in half and resolve it for $11,000. The trouble was that Booher said he doesn't have a large debt.
The letter did not indicate the company or organization from which it had been sent, only that he had until Oct. 3 to respond. The "personalized" website he was directed to boasted expert help for debt relief.
Calls to the toll-free numbers provided on the letter and website lead to long waits and an answering machine.
"If you get one of these letters, unsolicited, and you're not sure of it, contact your lender," advised Miguel Segura, Better Business Bureau district director.
In general, the Better Business Bureau warns consumers to beware of unsolicited offers to reduce or eliminate debt.
"What they usually ask for is an upfront fee to get the ball rolling on things," Segura said.
Although there are legitimate services for help with debts, he cautions that some of the less reputable ones can consolidate your loans, resulting in a higher interest rate and higher long-term cost.
"It could leave you worse off than you are now," he said.
If you do need help with creditors, the Better Business Bureau offers the following tips:
- Never pay upfront fees.
- Never give third-party power of attorney.
- Do your research on debt relief services.
- Contact your lenders yourself and ask about your options.