My debt counsellor has vanished. What do I do and am I really under debt review if my debt counsellor who initially placed me under debt review, was not a real debt counsellor?

Whilst debt counselling sought to alleviate the situation for over-indebted consumers, it unfortunately also exposed the same consumers to the risk of falling prey to scammers who pose as debt counsellors and defraud them in the process. 

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The NCR (National Credit Regulator) maintains a database where all the registered and deregistered debt counsellors can be found. This was done as an added measure on top of the requirement that every practising debt counsellor is to display their registration certificate in the reception area of their practice rooms/offices.

There are two instances where a debt counsellor is not registered. Firstly, if they are deregistered due to misconduct then in that case the consumers under that debt counsellor transfer to another still registered debt counsellor. The second instance is where the “debt counsellor” was never a registered debt counsellor at all. 

Legislation provides that the authority to issue notifications of any application for debt review to a credit provider, and to declare a consumer as over-indebted or not vests with lawfully registered debt counsellors or their lawfully delegated agent. A debt counsellor who is not lawfully registered does not have the authority to declare a consumer as over-indebted. This then means a debt counsellor who is not lawfully registered cannot put a consumer under debt review. Should it be found otherwise however, the NCR and NCT have mechanisms to deal with such cases and if the scammer took monies from the consumer, such cases must be reported as pure fraud to the police or special units who investigate organised crime. Visit https://www.ncr.org.za/act/list-of-forms/category/31-complaint-forms to download the NCR’s complaint form. Legal Hero Members, please contact us for assistance. 

More often than not and wary that they have no authority to place a consumer under debt review, scam ‘debt counsellors’ only restructure debts (debt mediation) which is essentially not regulated and can be done by even a consumer with good negotiation skills. One does not need to be a registered debt counsellor to do debt restructuring. The most effective way to find out whether or not one is under debt review is to request a copy of the credit report from the major Credit Bureaus (one free copy per year). Legal Hero Members, you may contact us for assistance and a copy of your Credit Report. 

LEGAL HERO ADVISES consumers to exercise caution before engaging the services of service providers who advertise debt counselling services to desperate over-indebted consumers. A registered debt counsellor is required to display the registration certificate in the reception area of the practice rooms where it is visible to all visitors. The NCR also keeps a registry of all the registered debt counsellors who are lawfully authorised to practice and offer debt counselling services. Their conduct is regulated by and enforced by the NCR which offers a dispute resolution and disciplinary procedure should there be service providers who do not adhere. 

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