Consumer Law Associates

by ChoiceREVU Editor

Consumer Law Associates (CLA)  is a national law firm dedicated to consumer debt reduction. They provide debt settlement services nationwide as well as bankruptcy and work closely with many of the nation’s top debt settlement companies to handle their clients in states in which an attorney is required for debt settlement. At first glance at their BBB record, one might think that Consumer Law Associates is a company to steer clear of, however, we dig a lot deeper than most to uncover the real story behind every company in our focus industry…

The BBB currently reports an F rating with 16 complaints, but the important thing to note here is that Consumer Law Associates is not a paying member of the BBB. As we have noted in many of our reviews, there is obvious preferential treatment for BBB members (see review on Care Once Credit where they have over 170 complaints with an A rating). What most people are unaware of is that the BBB has a policy in most states to rate all “non-member” debt settlement companies with a “D-” rating right out of the gate. From there, they subtract more points for complaints. Since the BBB has no way to know how many clients a particular company has, they make a company look bad with even as little as a few complaints.

Now ask yourself this question, “Which of the below companies would you rather work with?”:

- A company that has over 2,000 active clients and 16 complaints

- A company with 300 active clients and 7 complaints

According to the BBB the company with 16 complaints has an F rating, and the one with 7 complaints is rated B. The company with 16 complaints is Consumer Law Associates and the real story is that the BBB ratings are not worth anything and can easily steer a consumer away from a good company. 16 complaints out of 2,000 clients is less than a 1% complaint ratio and is a great record by any standard. Especially given that the debt settlement industry tends to have a lot of complaints since it deals directly with consumers in high-stress situations. The real value of seeing complaint listed with the BBB is to see how the company is handling them. If you see a large number of unhandled complaints, or complaints that were not responded to for a long period of time, that would be of concern. As you can see on CLA’s BBB report, they make a practice of promptly dealing with all complaints.

Furthermore, in reading through not only the complaints on the BBB, but also the ones listed on the Internet and with ripoffreport.com, the majority of the complaints are due to the clients not understanding the program in which they were enrolled. This means that they most likely were not listening, did not read the contract, or were misled by a debt consultant. If they were misled by a debt consultant this is to no fault of CLA since most of their clients are sent to them from other provider companies. In addition, many of the complaints aimed at CLA were actually complaints against a few of the larger debt settlement companies that refer clients to CLA and have nothing to do with the CLA law firm.

In contacting some of our contacts with TASC and USOBA (two industry organizations that lobby for the debt settlement industry), the reputation of CLA is quite remarkable and they are quickly becoming one of the pillars in the industry. Also because they are a law firm, consumers have some additional protections in place since attorneys and law firms are heavily governed by the BAR Associations.

Our conclusion is quite simply that Consumer Law Associates (CLA) offers a very solid debt settlement program and we have seen no evidence that justifies the poor rating assigned by the Better Business Bureau. I would feel badly for a consumer who decides against working with CLA based solely on their unfair BBB rating and a handful of misdirected complaints. They are certainly among the Top 10 debt settlement companies.

{ 28 comments… read them below or add one }

ChoiceREVU Editor March 18, 2009 at 3:37 pm

Please read the complete review above for an explanation that covers a large number of the complaints against Consumer Law Associates. We cannot emphasize enough how important it is for consumers to understand a little more behind the scenes of the debt management industry before making a decision about a company. It is very clear that you cannot make an educated decision based on BBB ratings.

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Robert L. Cooper March 27, 2009 at 12:46 pm

If what you have printed is the truth then this is a service that we americans can use. Unfortnately, the “truth” has become arbitary and very elusive. Sadly the verification process is very time consuming and often not revealing.

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ChoiceREVU Editor March 27, 2009 at 12:59 pm

Robert – we have a very extensive research process that we do on each company in a particular industry, however, we can only do our best to uncover the truth based on information we have access to. I hope you have found our information to be at least helpful in making your decision.

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Lucas April 28, 2009 at 4:03 pm

I did quite a bit of research through out the Debt Settlement industry calling company after company before I decided on Consumer Law Associates.I found most companies charge 15% as a retainer fee compared to Consumer Law Associates who charges much less then any other Debt Settlement company and is a real law firm. They took the time to explain the exact process of working with my creditors and answered every question I could think of.

I’m very happy with my choice and felt very comfortable when my assigned attorney contacted me to review the program after my first payment. A+ Rating by me!!

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Tony October 13, 2009 at 2:51 pm

I have never been involved with as much desperation as i am now and i didnt know where to turn or what was going to happen. I was home and an ad itrigued me to try and call for some relief on not only the debt i accumulated but the relief of some of the most unbelievable stress you could imagine. Consume Law Associates MADE SURE I UNDERSTOOD EVERYTHING CLEARLY AND I KNEW EXACTLY WHAT WAS REQUIRED There job was done professionally and correctly. I would recommend anyone with financial stress to at least attempt a call and give this strong company achance to get your life back together.

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Lynn January 10, 2010 at 12:15 pm

I started the process with these folks and they treated me exceptionally. I was not able to continue to contribute to my trust to settle debt but I have nothing but possitive things to say about these folks. They worked with me 100%. 85% of my funds were returned when I could not continue to contribute and ultimetly had to file bankruptcy. These are good folks. the customer service folks are awesome. They explained things until I understood. They soothed my stressed out soul with encouragement and support. I knew I was in good hands, I just did not have enough income left after husband lost his job to settle any debt. I tried hard and they tried harder.

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Sonia April 2, 2010 at 5:47 pm

I have been working with CLA for over a year now. In the beginning they were great. They were clear on the expectations and what they would do for me. They stressed the importance of following up, loading documents etc. The attorney assigned to my case was diligent, informative, and quick to respond to my documents. However, I have run into a glitch just in March 2010. Documents that I have tried to upload have not uploaded even after 4/5 attempts. I have sent them email with the documents attached and those have never been responded to. I finally wrote an email and cc’d the attorney and she said she would notify the CLA Attorney manager about my concern. Three days later I’ve not heard from anyone in CLA. I feel like CLA has abandoned me and if they can fix this situation I will be happy once again with their service but right now I am having second thoughts. When you do everything they tell you to do and then you don’t hear from them and your documents aren’t uploaded as they are supposed to then it makes you wonder if you don’t matter anymore and if they are actually supporting you like they say they would.

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Allison Peoples April 14, 2010 at 4:41 pm

I just exited the program as they have been one of the worst experiences I have had in dealing with an organization.. They uploaded someone elses private information into my account as to their home address name what it was a settlement offer from a creditor so I know how much they owed this company and what they were willing to settle for etc. When I called CLA they still did not remove that information from my file. Then in March 2010 I faxed them a urgent notice from an attorneys office that was threatening to file suit and asked them to contact them so mitigate the situation NO CONTACT was made and then today I received a SUMMONS lawsuit so they did file suit and the sad part about it is the company suing them we $1500 when entering the program they filed suit for $2000 I have almost $800 sitting in my account. So screw CLA as they just feed you lines of bs for anyone willing to believe what they say on the other line. They have not negotiated one dam thing for me I settled one account and it was because of an offer that was sent direct to me in the mail and they did not call and try to negotiate they just said take the offer, I could of done that one my own and saved myself thousands.

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Terri May 13, 2010 at 8:22 pm

This company has very poor communication with the client. Basically they did nothing until we were sued and had to file bankruptcy. They get to keep almost $11,000 for doing nothing!!

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Danielle Pettersen July 30, 2010 at 10:05 am

Don’t know why I’m leaving this comment, because it will probably be deleted. Up until this past June, I thought Consumer Law associates was an outstanding debt settlement company. I found out that recently they do not follow their own procedures properly. They always say to make sure your mortage is payed. Well, due to a lot of bad luck I have been unable to pay for three months, so I decided to stop my payments with CLA for three months. I called in had a recording as well as sent a letter to this effect. For the past two months they continued to draft their fees, havinf full knowledge that I revoked them for three months. And I have had difficulty getting them returned. Their customer service has fallen to a new low, with no return phone calls. Not answering direct numbers and not listening to their messages. I have been failed to the worst extent possible. I am still behind on my mortage and will probably have to cancel services soon due to their incompetency.

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Debbie Warren August 11, 2010 at 1:23 pm

I am one of the unfortunate people who trusted Consumer Law Associates to negotiate with my creditors on my behalf. I faithfully faxed in the letters I received from my creditors, as I was told to do. I had a settlement offer from one of my creditors for less than half of what I owed the. When I called CLA, they had me as the middleman negotiating with the creditor. Why was I paying them, if I was doing all of the negotiations? In May, I was served papers from one of my creditors. I faxed the paperwork to CLA noting on the cover sheet this information was urgent! I received an auto-notification back the following day stating they had received my paperwork and an attorney would be calling me shortly. After waiting a week and a half, I still hadn’t heard from their attorney (as you know, judgements are time sensitive and need immediate attention, )I needed to file the paperwork with the courts. I ended up writing up my own papers and filing them myself. After this incident, I cancelled my contract with CLA, that was May 21, 2010.

Today, Aug 3, 2010, I called CLA regarding my refund. I was told that my refund review had been closed on July 12, 2010 and the money I paid to them was deemed earned. I’m now out $2, 200.00. I can’t believe they can even say the money I paid was earned! They did nothing for me, but take my money!

I believe CLA stole my money. Please, please DO NOT every use this company to settle your debts.

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Rachel August 18, 2010 at 2:38 pm

Well so far I am having bad luck with CLA, I have tried numerous times to talk to someone and I either wait on the phone for 15-30 minutes at a time and finally give up. I leave messages for someone to return my call, and still nothing. Not very ethical business to me. With service like that I undestand the F rating on BBB.

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Mel August 20, 2010 at 2:39 pm

I actually signed up with the program through Rise Above Debt, but since my state requires legal representation CLA became my settlement company. Everyone was very helpful in the beginning however things have not been going so well over the past several months. The agreement states that the estimated settlement amount is 50% of the enrolled balance. The accounts continue to accrue interest and penalties and on average the settlement amount on the current balance is 50% however due to the higher balances on the accounts, based on the enrolled amount, the settlements are 66% of the enrolled balance. Based on the amount I enrolled into to program, the difference between the estimated 50% and the actual 66% will equal ~$6800. I was able to sell some land and called CLA as soon as I had the funds which was in March and transferred the estimated amount of money CLA said it would take to settle all of my accounts. It is 5 months later and I still have several accounts that are not settled and when I call no one seems to be concerned enough to actually take action on any of my remaining accounts. And with the unexpected larger settlement amounts I won’t have enough $ to settle the remaining accounts. I realize that the original quoted settlement amounts were just estimates and if it was just a couple thousand $ difference I wouldn’t be concerned but $6800 is unacceptable.

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Doreen August 23, 2010 at 4:39 pm

I am currently a client of Consumer Law and have been for approx. a year. I have to say that it is definitely NOT what I was told to expect. Originally when I signed up, they did explain everything to me very carefully and made sure I understood. I was very pleased to be having some help with all my debt problems and the program sounded great.
But then, after the process began, I discover that many of the things that I was told from the beginning that attracted me to the company were not true. For example, I was told that I would receive a lot of phone calls from my creditors but after 3 months of not paying, Consumer Law would send out a Cease and Desist letter to all my creditors and said I would then stop receiving calls. It has already been a year and I am STILL receiving calls every day. Now Consumer Law is saying that that DON’T send out these letters unless I inform them I instruct them to, but then many of my creditor won’t settle with me and will want to take me to court. So instead of having creditors chase me for 3 months as I was originally told, I’ve had creditors calling me for over a year and they are STILL calling.
Also, another thing I found out is that, if you receive a settlement offer and you pay for it out of your own bank account then Consumer Law will remove that account from your balance and no longer represent you for that account. Now, before I had ever settled the account, I spoke repeatedly with Consumer Law and asked them what I should do. They advised me to just pay for it out of my bank account and take it off the program. (Note: They never refunded me the amount of the fees that I paid towards the legal fees that we pay up front in the beginning based on the amount of debt we have.) But now, five months after the account was “settled” the creditor is chasing me for the rest of the original balance I owe, even though I have the settlement letter and all the payment documentation. But most importantly, is that even though Consumer Law was the one that told me to pay for this debt out of my personal account, they will not help me at all with this company that is suing me for the remainder of the balance. So I basically paid thousands of dollars in the beginning for a lawyer fee that now I have to hire a different lawyer for and pay for it out of pocket(which I don’t have money for, hence why I’m in the program)
Another problem that I have with Consumer Law is that they tell you originally, that you will have a lawyer backing you up if any of your debts go to court. That is not true. They will only ADVISE you what to do when you do go to court, but they DO NOT represent you if your debt case goes to court.
Another thing I have discovered that is not true is that when you first start the program, they tell you that after 3 months, or when they settle the account, they will settle off the amount of debt that you started with (i.e. without the addition of all the fees and interest.) But that is also not true. I asked about it recently when we were trying to settle some accounts and I wondered why my balances were all at least two thousand dollars over my original credit amount and way over the credit limit. But apparently, they DO NOT speak to the credit companies and settle off your original debt, it is settled AFTER interest, fees, and penalties accrue for months and moths, thereby increasing your amounts owed by thousands of dollars. So when Consumer Law says they will settle for 40 or 50%, it is actually much higher, because depending on the amount of time, your accounts do accrue interest, penalties, and fees.
Also, for customer service, I was told at the beginning that I would have one representative, named Simona, assigned to me and a lawyer assigned to me, but every time I call I constantly have to explain my situation over and over because I get a different representative every time, and Simona gave me a non-working number. To this date I still have NEVER spoken to Simona except for when she signed me up for the program. Additionally, the representatives don’t write down the information you tell them, so next time you call you have to start over from the beginning. The different representatives are not all trained the same way and tell you different advice that doesn’t add up.
Another example of how screwed up Consumer Law can be is that I was in the process of settling an account last week, PERSONALLY because Consumer Law states that if your creditors won’t call them, then you have to deal with them personally and negotiate yourself and then send them the settlement offers (but then what am I paying Consumer Law for?!?) . After I arranged everything with the creditor and set up the settlement, I called Consumer Law and faxed and emailed the pertinent documents that day and marked them as “urgent”. The settlement was set for the 20th of August. I arranged to have Consumer Law withdraw the additional settlement amount out of my account on the 20th and three different representatives stated that they would call the creditors about the settlement and take care of it so that the account would be settled. Today is the 23rd of August, and when I spoke to someone at Consumer Law today, I had to re-explain my entire situation and apparently no one from Consumer Law had called the creditor, nor had they withdrawn the money from my account, yet they did record me 3 times telling them to withdraw the account on the 20th. Yet it still has not happened. Hopefully, I can just work out this problem myself since Consumer Law is AGAIN not doing the things they claim.
Originally when I signed up for this program, I though the benefits would be great, but since I’ve been on it for awhile now, I’ve realized that I should never have signed up for the program to begin with. Their customer service is awful and often rude. Everything that they have “helped” with, and I use that word very lightly because they really have done nothing to help me in the past year, I could have easily accomplished myself. Every single settlement offer has been handled by me and Consumer Law has taken approx $5000 when I first started this program for their fees, but I have yet to receive representation or a refund of the amount for the debt that they refuse to help me with now. I would have been better off if I had just stopped paying my debts myself and saved money myself, and spoken to the creditors myself, (oh, wait a minute, I did do all of that stuff myself) So I basically paid Consumer Law $5000 up front plus $90 a month that COULD’VE been much better spent settling out my debts. So please, PLEASE be careful when you are speaking with them because many things are not as they seem. I am still trying to figure out a way to get out of this program now.
And I do assure you, I spoke very many times to different representatives of Consumer Law Associates and they all told me the same thing BEFORE I signed up for the program, but after I paid the lawyers fees, the representatives started to tell me something different. I know for a fact that I was not confused when I signed up for the program, I read the contract carefully and asked many, many questions before ever signing up. It wasn’t until 3-5 months of being on the program that the lines the representative were giving me changed. I am just very upset with this program now and feel like I don’t know what to do and am stuck in a worse position than I was when I started the program with Consumer Law Associates.

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Doreen August 25, 2010 at 10:24 am

I wrote a complaint here about Consumer Law Associates, but it is not shown. I am wondering why? Do you only post goos reviews here about them? Also, the information posted here is incorrect. BBB had received 166 complaints about them as opposed to the above stated 16. Comments?

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Joe C. September 17, 2010 at 11:40 am

CLA, partnered with Debt America, took nearly $12,000 of my money in just under a year and now they are advising me to file chapter 7. Since I signed on with them in Nov 2009, my credit has been destroyed and my debt has increased by thousands of dollars. These people cannot be trusted and they should pay for their actions. I will not rest until these companies cease to exist.

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Larry Arthur October 27, 2010 at 2:15 pm

Dealing with Consumer Law Associates has been a nightmare. I have sent them thousands of dollars to settle this and now I’m being sued. I was led to believe that in the event that I was sued CLA would be there to help me. Not so. All they have done is email me a “settlement letter” that provides zero proof that they actually payed my creditor. Now I have to go to court alone with no evidence that the debt was settled four months ago. I have talked to CLA customer service many many times. Every time it is a different person, unfamiliar with my case and I have been given conflicting informations. When I asked to speak with a supervisor, I was told that they were all on the phone and unavailable. When I said that I would hold, the person just hung up on me. That has happened twice now. They say they will call me back and then nothing. Don’t expect to speak with an attorney. Save your money and settle the debts yourself. You will end up money ahead.

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Gregory Hicks January 4, 2011 at 8:45 am

I have been with CLA for over 180day and have never heard from the attorney signed to our file. We have left several messages with CLA but they have been unable to get her to contact us. We are in this all alone and are making settlements ourselves. We have gotten several conflicting accounts of how the programs negotiations actually work, at this point I do not believe our creditors have had any communication with anyone at CLA. CLA has been informative, but not at all helpful in our settlement process.

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scott January 4, 2011 at 9:34 pm

I urge you not to use this organization. They have taken over $50,000 from me and I have no proof of where my money has gone. I have stopped making payments to them over the last 6 months because I have asked for verification of the 8 debts that have supposedly been settled and paid off. I have asked for documentation to show me where my money has gone on at least 10 differant occasions over this period of time and have received nothing. I authorized payments and payoffs on accounts to settle debts when I had the money in my accounts to pay them off with the firm and they never paid them and Ive gone to court on three differant occasions because of it. I am a retired disabled veteran and live on a fixed income and I have no other means. In the last four weeks I have asked the firm to reimburse me with my own money in my account with them so that I could buy oil for my house in the north east for heat and hot water since I am financially broke. I have a young child and a wife that live here as well with no oil or heat or hot water and I explained this to them on four differant times. I was told they would send me the money back and failed to do so. Therefore my family has been forced to bathe and clean at a friends house and I still have no heat other than the wood that was donated to me. I cant express enough that his firm doesnt care for you or your well being. I am seeking an attorney to sue as soon as i can find one that will take my case for payment when the case is settled. I also was told at the onset that the first five payments I made were for theyre retainer fees yet after being in the program for a year they told me the first 10 months were retained. They take $860.00 a month from me leaving me basically penniless. They have collected over $50,000 from me and I have no proof my debts have been settled. Please do not fall into this scam like I did. I have begged them to just send me back my money that is in my account with them to provide for my family and they have done nothing. They are exactly what america shouldnt be, they pray on the weak and unfortunate and ruin their lives with no regard. Please dont do this

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Thomas Campbell May 6, 2011 at 6:20 pm

I just withdrew from the program with CLA and will say that they did an okay job for me for the past year, although they did not go out of the way to settle anything, I brought them every offer myself. Now I stop, thinking I will get back any lawyers fees I paid in above the 10% of the debt they settled, WRONG!, they sent me $900 and said that is all I will get back. So they earned? $14000 to settle $70,000 in debt? Just know that whatever is paid in will never come back to you, and with a little backbone you can settle the debts on your own.

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Kisha Smith July 13, 2011 at 8:27 am

Your company is very unprofessional, each time that i call to seek assistance, your representatives (ricardo, sean, jennifer, iriina, john, & grace) give me miss leading information everytime, when i request to speak with a supervisor they decline, stating there are no direct supervisor to take calls. I wouldnt recommend anyone to do business with your company. No one should be treated the way your reps treat customers…

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Melony July 14, 2011 at 2:20 pm

HORRIBLE experience with CLA! Over a year ago I paid enough into the program to settle all of my accounts. I originally signed up through rise above and had an estimated cost of $27000 to complete the program, I have now paid in over $29000 and have several thousand in dept still left that they have not settled. The balance in my trust account is several thousand short of what it should be. And they will not return my emails when I ask them for financial details.

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Bernice August 20, 2011 at 10:32 pm

CLA is a scam. I advise everyone do not use this money scam program to settle your debt. Save your money if you can and pay your own debt off. They stole 18,000 dollars from me and said only one credit card was paid. Actually, the one credit card that was supposly to be paid was not. IRS sent a form saying the balance was income and I had to file it as income.

CLA need to close their doors to customers. They are no good to clients. I am still very upset with them and
hate that I even contacted them.

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Lili August 28, 2011 at 12:27 pm

I am beginning to have strong doubts about CLA. Each time I call, I get different information from a variety of people with limited knowledgeability. They ignore my calls, my e-mails. I think i am going to get out. I just hope I can get my savings back from them.

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curtis September 7, 2011 at 9:19 pm

i have tried to tell your workers that i can not acess my account that i have with you . Because your web site that my account is on wouldn’t come up on my pc. Please call or email me a to fix this.

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T September 29, 2011 at 10:55 am

Below is one of many emails I sent to my so called representative that signed me up for the program… Needless to say my emails were unanswered…
RUN and do not waste your time and most importantly your money with CLA
Don,
The program was absolutely no help to me, in fact, my financial situation is worse than before I entered the program.

Customer service was inconsistent, no help, provided little communication with me and NO communication to the collection agencies/attorneys.

Other than CLA filing my paper work and taking my money that is all CLA did for me and once terminating the enrollment and requesting a refund–the minuscule refund also added insult to injury and quite frankly was offensive.

The monies given to CLA I would have been able to settle/pay off an account and again, I am in a worse financial situation than when I entered the program.

At one point, I knew I should have followed my instinct and listened to the other consumer complaints about the program and just settled the debt myself which would have been a better result.

I think program like this, preys on the consumer that has heighten emotions and fear about their finances.
Fear drives/directs most things.

I consider myself an intelligent person but, becoming another statistic of a debt relief program that failed I have viewed myself differently and never want to be a victim again.

Whether or not I am an ‘isolated incident’ or this will be turned around as my fault for whatever reason, the program failed.

I read my contract thoroughly and understood the process and the amount of time it would take to settle my debt however, when the program doesn’t communicate with the collectors as I was told and it would have been years before I would have been able to settle even one account, again it failed.

I withdrew from the program due to being served/sued from all my collectors, risking garnishment of my wages and in turn would have also risked losing my house.

IF the program has helped others, than good for them, for me this was certainly not the case and feeling completely disappointed and disgusted doesn’t even begin to describe my feelings.

I don’t know how long I will I will be affected from the consequences of the program failing me.

I anticipate years.

I have done foolish things in my life but this one is the one I most regret and I wish I have never called to inquire about the program.

I have kept quiet on message boards about CLA and with the better business bureau but now I think I have enough to start voicing what has happened to me.

I cannot begin to tell you how much remorse, anger and disappointment I have from ever entering this program.

AGAIN the refund I received was such an insult–I could have settled an account with the money I paid into the program with absolute no help.

It is truly sickening…

I hope my coments can prevent just one person from becoming a victim of the so-called debt relief program

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Pamela S. Hunter January 26, 2012 at 9:14 am

I have lost your phone number, and address. I would like to put more money on my account. Number is 1277749 client, and P5166H is my password. Please help me. Also my password is not being accepted anymore. Thanks, Pamela S. Hunter

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