The outside of the mailer appeared to be from a governmental agency. They even cited Title 18, Section 1702 of U.S. Code with the following:
WARNING: $2,000 FINE, 5 YEARS IMPRISONMENT, OR BOTH FOR ANY PERSON INTERFERING OR OBSTRUCTING WITH DELIVERY OF THIS LETTER U.S. MAIL TTT. 18 SEC 1702 U.S.CODE
However, I immediately recognized this as a cleverly crafted fake that walks the line of legality, since it clearly is meant to cause the recipient to believe it may be from a government agency.
The seal at the top of the inside of the mailer contains the Great Seal of the United States of America, which is surrounded by the text “NATIONAL COUNCIL FOR CONSUMER DEBT RELIEF”. The text is so difficult to read that all you really notice is the Great Seal. Of course the name itself is enough to cause some people to think that it is a government agency.
Since National Council for Consumer Debt Relief quoted one section of the U.S. Code, I think it is important for debtors to understand why they have violated another. According to Title 18, Section 713:
Whoever knowingly displays any printed or other likeness of the great seal of the United States, or any facsimile thereof, in, or in connection with, any advertisement, poster, circular, book, pamphlet, or other publication, public meeting, play, motion picture, telecast, or other production, or on any building, monument, or stationery, for the purpose of conveying, or in a manner reasonably calculated to convey, a false impression of sponsorship or approval by the Government of the United States or by any department, agency, or instrumentality thereof, shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than six months, or both.
The only obvious part of this letter that proves that it is from a private company is the nondescript legal disclaimer at the bottom of the mailer: “This is not a government program.” The notice itself may not be enough, since there is no notification showing that the National Council for Consumer Debt Relief is not a government agency.
This company went so far as to list company headquarters on Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington, D.C. However, they could not fake their reputation with the Better Business Bureau, which provided them with an “F” rating.
If you receive one of these mailers, understand that this company cannot provide any real debt relief beyond what you can do on your own. Also, consider the deception they used in their advertisement. Their claims of relief should be met with healthy skepticism.
Unsuspecting debtors frequently fall prey to such schemes. Under debt settlement company fee schedules, you make monthly payments for six to eight months just to pay their upfront fees. You have zero dollars in your account for any settlement during this term, whereas your creditors may pursue collection of the debt in court. By the time an account is settled, you still pay nearly the original amount due to the continued charges.
Debt settlement companies like National Council for Consumer Debt Relief will take what little money you have left and leave you defenseless from judgments, garnishments and levies. Their claims sure sound good, but they cannot deliver what they promise. For real debt relief, try increasing your monthly payments to eliminate balances on your own. If you need help, contact a reputable credit counseling organization.
In all actuality, the National Council for Consumer Debt Relief is a debt settlement company, not a government agency. Due to the illegal nature of their advertisement, you should definitely steer clear of this company.
Long is a graduate of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill with a B.A. in Industrial Relations. He subsequently received his Certificate in Nonprofit Management from Duke University. His Certificate in Financial Planning was issued by Florida State University.
Long has achieved the Accredited Credit Counselor and Accredited Financial Counselor certifications through the Association for Financial Counseling, Planning and Education. Long originally achieved the Certified Credit Counselor designation through the National Institute for Financial Education.
In addition to years of nonprofit leadership, Long has been an innovator in the field of volunteer tax return preparation programs. He assists volunteer associations and nonprofit organizations who seek to integrate credit counseling and asset-building programs with free personal income tax preparation. His approach to using free credit reports as both an incentive and a screening tool for placement into asset-building programs has been shared with members of the National Community Tax Coalition, the EITC-Carolinas Initiative of MDC, Inc. and nonprofit groups across the Carolinas.
Long assists members of our armed forces in the Carolinas, Iowa, Rhode Island, Georgia and Germany with financial readiness. Please support our Soldiers, Marines, Airmen and Sailors!
"The democracy will cease to exist when you take away from those who are willing to work and give to those who would not."