Discover a Rapid Debt Settlement Solution
Christine Mahoney, Host, Debt Happens: Hi, I’m Christine Mahoney, and welcome to this edition of Debt Happens. Today I’m talking to Steve Craig, the owner and managing attorney of Trident Debt Solutions. Steve, thanks for having a conversation with me today.
Steve Craig, Owner/Managing Attorney, Trident Debt Solutions: Thanks for having me.
CM: So, Steve, tell me a little bit about what you do at Trident Debt Solutions.
SC: I’m an attorney that helps people get out of debt. At Trident Debt Solutions we offer an alternative to bankruptcy for people who are in serious credit card debt. What we do is negotiate with banks on our clients’ behalf to get them out of credit card debt or unsecured lines of credit for about 50 to 60 cents on the dollar.
CM: Wow, so are your fees in addition to that?
SC: No, that figure includes our fees.
CM: So, we aren’t talking bankruptcy here, are we?
SC: No. I am a practicing bankruptcy attorney, but Trident Debt Solutions is set up as an alternative to bankruptcy. We are here for that person who is in serious credit card debt but that does not feel like bankruptcy is an appropriate option or is dead set against filing bankruptcy.
CM: So, sometimes when people are struggling with debt, they may feel like there is no light at the end of the tunnel. At Trident Debt Solutions, how can you help them see that there is?
SC: We offer the fastest and least costly way out of debt other than filing bankruptcy. When I think of light at the end of the tunnel, I am thinking of a plan that gets someone out of debt in two years or less, and that’s what we do.
CM: And what does your typical client look like?
SC: Christine, there are three traits. First, they have unsecured credit card debt or other unsecured lines of credit exceeding ,000. I would say our average client has about ,000 in credit card debt. Secondly, they have had some type of financial hardship, whether that is loss of income, business failure, divorce or medical problem. And finally, they are able to raise 50 percent of their total credit card debt in two years or less.
CM: So how do they raise that money? Do they have to make a lump sum payment all at once, or can they make payments?
SC: Well, some clients do pay in a lump sum. If they do not have a lump sum, then they can raise the money by paying two to three percent of their total credit card debt over a period of approximately 18 to 24 months.
CM: So, Steve, what is unique about Trident Debt Solutions?
SC: I would have to say it is the personalized level of service we give each client. I think when you come into our office, we are very different from the typical consumer credit card counseling company. Whereas typical debt settlement companies have thousands of clients, we usually have about 70 at a time, so we are really able to give them a high level of attention. We have just a few employees who have been with us for over 10 years. A good example of that would be Alex Collins, he is our chief negotiator and operations manager. He’s been with me since the beginning. I think what our clients like about dealing with us is that they talk with either Alex or I directly on our cell phones, we are easy to get in touch with and they aren’t going to get a different person every time they call, and I think they like that.
CM: With that level of really extreme personal attention, what is your success rate like?
SC: We are proud of the fact that over 10 years, we have not had one client that we did not succeed in getting debt free.
CM: Wow, that’s unusual.
SC: We are fundamentally different from these large companies. I am not trying to be a large company. We are looking for a very specific type of client – somebody who has ,000 or ,000, even upwards of 0,000 or 0,000 of unsecured debt and they are able to raise 50 percent of that sum over about two years. There aren’t a lot of these people out there, but for those that are, we like to offer them a very high level of service.
CM: And Steve, you are also a practicing bankruptcy attorney, so that has to be a pretty big positive for your clients.
SC: I think it is, Christine. I’ve represented over 3,000 people in US bankruptcy court, so the banks are typically used to getting nothing from my clients and I think that gives my clients a degree of leverage that they might not otherwise have. In addition to that, when you hire an attorney to represent you in respect to your debt, federal law requires that the creditor calls the attorney. So immediately, we can stop all the creditors from calling. In general, I think it is nice to have an attorney on your side in a situation where you might be battling it out with creditors.
CM: And as an attorney, certainly your capacity to give legal advice must be a huge advantage.
SC: I think you’ve hit on a major point, Christine, one that separates us from others. When you call Trident Debt Solutions, you’re not going to speak with a salesman. You’re not going to speak with a customer service rep. You’re going to speak directly with me, and I can advise my clients on whether a bankruptcy might be more appropriate, or discuss other options. I can discuss tax implications with them, and some of the more esoteric debt settlement issues.
CM: Have any of your clients ever been sued?
SC: From time to time, yes, it does happen. However, I can tell you that none of my clients has ever seen the inside of a courtroom. So if they are sued, we will reach out to an attorney and serve them a summons and settle that debt just like we would have if the debt was with the original creditor.
CM: How can you minimize the risk of a lawsuit happening?
SC: Well, it doesn’t usually come to that, for a couple of reasons. First, before a lawyer would serve you with a summons, they would write you a letter first. And of course we ask all our clients to keep us informed, to forward any mail that they might get regarding the debt. So we will reach out to that lawyer and settle that debt just like we would have if it was with the original creditor. But the other thing that we do that I think is different from most companies is we limit our planned time to two years or less. And if we do that, for the vast majority of our clients, they will not be served a summons.
When we go to work for a client, Christine, we put a great deal of time into prioritizing how the debts are settled. The very first thing that I am going to consider is not how high an interest rate is, the first thing I look at is how quickly is any given creditor likely to sue you. How quickly does their collections process work? If I know that one creditor might file a lawsuit in seven months, and another it might take them two years, then I’m going to attack that seven-month debt first to get that problem out of the way early. The other thing to consider, Christine, is that we like to get the biggest debts handled first. We want to solve the majority of our client’s problem early on.
And thirdly, we will consider what the settlement rate is. We start all of our negotiations with what we call a reverse auction. So when I say reverse auction, what I mean is this: We start negotiating on behalf of our clients by contacting all of their creditors and saying we have a limited pot of money, and it’s not enough to pay everyone here. Whoever of you gives us the best settlement rate, we are likely to settle with that person first. So we bid them against each other and put a little pressure on them early. And we will take that into account. Of course if we get some great rate from a bank, we may just take that. And all in all, that’s part of the experience and that’s what we bring to the table in terms of being able to guide a given client from start to finish.
CM: And I also saw that Trident Debt Solutions has won the Gold Star Award from the Better Business Bureau.
SC: Yeah, we are very proud of that. In the over 10 years that the BBB has been following us, we have never had a single client complaint.
CM: And I understand that the Better Business Bureau is pretty tough on your industry.
SC: Well, they are, and that is what they are there for, really, to protect consumers. For years, the debt settlement industry was totally unregulated. There were a great number of fraudulent companies out there, and frankly, many downright criminals waiting to take people’s money. So I’m glad they are there, and I think they do a very good job.
CM: So they took a pretty hard look at your business?
SC: Well, they did, yes. The first thing they did was refer us to the Attorney General, and we were vetted by the Attorney General’s office. Secondly, they asked for phone numbers of every one of our clients, current and past. And thirdly, I was personally interviewed by a 14-member board of directors of the Better Business Bureau.
CM: Well alright. One last question, Steve: Does Trident Debt Solutions have any sort of a guarantee?
SC: We do, absolutely. Our guarantee is that on any given debt, if we cannot save you at least 30 percent, there is no charge on that debt.
CM: Thank you very much, Steve Craig, Managing Attorney and Founder of Trident Debt Solutions. And that’s going to do it for this edition of Debt Happens. I’m Christine Mahoney – thanks for watching.