Founding member of the American Fair Credit Council
May take longer than expected
Debt settlement not guaranteed
Only available in 41 states
History of misconduct
Our take on Freedom Debt Relief
Freedom Debt Relief could offer a good alternative to bankruptcy for people who are struggling to pay off thousands of dollars of debt. Customers have mostly positive things to say about its customer service team. And fees start slightly lower most debt relief companies I’ve reviewed, at 15% of the debt you settle through the program. While it’s faced a couple of lawsuits over advertising and pricing practices, it’s since changed the way it conducts business and is one of the more reputable settlement services I’ve reviewed.
However, some clients have complained that the program took longer than expected — if they were able to complete the program at all. As with any debt relief company, there’s always a possibility you won’t complete Freedom Debt Relief’s program. Weigh the risks, costs and alternatives before signing up for this service.
What is Freedom Debt Relief and is it legit?
Freedom Debt Relief is a legitimate debt settlement company that helps people with unmanageable unsecured debt get back on their feet. It was founded in 2002 by two Stanford Business School alumni to offer better options for consumers struggling with debt.
Today, it’s an industry heavyweight with a hand in creating the standards for the debt settlement industry. It’s a member of the American Fair Credit Council (AFCC) or International Association of Professional Debt Arbitrators (IAPDA), which are trade organizations that set benchmarks for debt relief companies to meet.
But regulators have taken action against the company multiple times over its business relief practices.
Freedom Debt Relief lawsuits
Freedom Debt Relief has faced at least three lawsuits over the past 10 years.
The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) settled suit against Freedom in 2019 over the following practices:
Charging advance fees
Failing to tell consumers of their right to access funds they set aside for debt relief
Charging customers without settling debt
Charging customers for accounts the customers had settled on their own
Misleading customers about the cost of its debt relief services
Misleading customers about Freedom Debt Relief’s ability to directly negotiate with creditors
Freedom Debt Relief agreed to pay $20 million to the affected customers and a $5 million civil penalty. Since the CFPB filed the lawsuit in 2017, the company also made widespread changes to the debt relief process and its disclosures.
Freedom Debt Relief has also settled lawsuits with a couple states:
New York State sued Freedom Debt Relief 2020 over how the company advertises savings: Freedom Debt Relief failed to disclose what percentage of customers actually finish the program with a reduced balance when it advertised potential savings.
Washington State also sued Freedom Debt Relief for charging customers fees but then failing to contact their creditors. The company agreed to a settlement in 2010.
Freedom Debt Relief reviews and complaints
BBB customer reviews
4.4 out of 5 stars, based on 1,730 customer reviews
BBB customer complaints
4.6 out of 5 stars, based on 34,943 customer reviews
Customer reviews verified as of
01 October 2021
Freedom Debt Relief gets mostly positive online reviews from customers. However, many are from customers who have recently signed up — rather than those who have completed the program. A top complaint is that the program took longer than expected — or may not have worked at all. Be sure to consider how debt relief could impact your long-term finances before you sign up.
How does Freedom Debt relief work?
Freedom Debt Relief ultimately works by negotiating down your balances in exchange for a one-time payment. Here’s how this typically happens:
Get a consultation. Meet with a debt specialist to make sure you’re eligible for the program and learn how to enroll.
Save up for your settlement with monthly deposits. To cover the cost of the settlement and Freedom Debt Relief’s fees, your deposits go into an FDIC-insured account that you can easily monitor online.
Freedom Debt Relief negotiates with your creditors. Once you have enough funds in your account, Freedom Debt Relief contacts your creditors to discuss a settlement arrangement. This process is delicate, tricky and can take longer than expected. It’s not uncommon for it to take several attempts before your debt is settled.
Pay your debt settlement. Freedom Debt Relief contacts you each time they reach an agreement with a creditor, asking you to authorize them to pay the settlement through your account.
Start rebuilding your credit. Debt settlement can cause your credit score to tank temporarily, though your score starts to rebuild after settlements are made.
How much does it cost?
Freedom Debt Relief charges a fee of 15% to 25% of the debt you enroll in the program. You must enroll $7,500 at a minimum — though the average customer enrolls $24,000. This works out to a fee of $3,600 to $6,000 on the average customer’s balance.
But the cost can be higher if you don’t make payments on your debt. If you stop repayments, interest and late fees will add up and increase your balance.
How much could I save with Freedom Debt Relief?
Customers can save up to 50% of their enrolled debt if they complete the program, according to the Freedom Debt Relief website. After fees, this works out to a savings of 25% to 35%.
Savings are calculated at the time that your account is settled. If you stopped making payments to your creditors, you won’t see as much in savings. And in some cases, you could end up owing more. People who drop out of the program also often end up owing more than they originally enrolled.
Debt relief companies typically charge a percentage of a customer’s debt or a monthly program fee for their services. And not all companies are transparent about these costs or drawbacks that can negatively affect your credit score. Depending on the company you work with, you might pay other fees for third-party settlement services or setting up new accounts, which can leave you in a worse situation than when you signed up.
Consider alternatives before signing up with a debt relief company:
Payment extensions. Companies you owe may be willing to extend your payment due date or put you on a longer payment plan if you ask.
Nonprofit credit counseling. Look for free debt-management help from nonprofit organizations like the National Foundation for Credit Counseling.
Debt settlement. If you can manage to pay a portion of the bill, offer the collection agency a one-time payment as a settlement. Collection agencies are often willing to accept a lower payment on your debt to close the account.
Frequently asked questions
Debt settlement in general could damage your credit score, but it can also help you rebuild your credit in the long run by clearing up some of your debts. Whether your credit score can benefit from debt relief depends on your spending habits. If you spend recklessly after settling your debt, you’ll find yourself in the same — if not a worse — position.
Not always, unfortunately. And Freedom Debt Relief doesn’t guarantee anything when you sign up. There’s always a chance that your creditors simply won’t agree to let you settle your debt, no matter how much your company negotiates. It’s often best to treat debt settlement as a last resort before filing for bankruptcy.
Follow these steps to login to your online account with Freedom Debt Relief:
Go to the Freedom Debt Relief website and click Client Dashboard.
Enter your email and password and click Client Login.
If you live in one of the following states or territories, you won’t be able to sign up for Freedom Debt Relief’s services:
Anna Serio is a trusted lending expert and certified Commercial Loan Officer who's published more than 1,000 articles on Finder to help Americans strengthen their financial literacy. A former editor of a newspaper in Beirut, Anna writes about personal, student, business and car loans. Today, digital publications like Business Insider, CNBC and the Simple Dollar feature her professional commentary, and she earned an Expert Contributor in Finance badge from review site Best Company in 2020.
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