Understanding Consumer Credit Counseling Services
Are you living paycheck to paycheck? Worried about debt collectors calling? Can’t develop a workable budget, let alone save money for retirement? If this sounds familiar, you may want to consider working with a Consumer Credit Counseling Service. Many consumer credit counseling organizations are nonprofit and work with you to solve your financial problems. But beware — just because an organization says it is “nonprofit” doesn’t guarantee that its services are free or affordable, or that its services are legitimate. In fact, some consumer credit counseling organizations charge high fees, some of which may be hidden, or urge consumers to make “voluntary” contributions that cause them to fall deeper into debt.
Most credit counselors offer services through local offices, the Internet, or on the telephone. If possible, find an organization that offers in-person counseling. Many universities, military bases, credit unions, housing authorities, and branches of the U.S. Cooperative Extension Service operate nonprofit credit counseling programs. Your financial institution, local consumer protection agency, and friends and family also may be good sources of information and referrals.
Notice: By calling 1800DEBT.COM (that's 1800=332-8266) you will reach a special debt relief call center that will automatically connect you to a certified debt professional that services your area based on the area code that you are calling from. We highly suggest that you call this toll-free number in conducting your research for debt relief. If you prefer, click here to make your request online for a free consultation and for other options.
Choosing A Credit Counseling Organization
Reputable credit counseling organizations advise you on managing your money and debts, help you develop a budget, and usually offer free educational materials and workshops. Their counselors are certified and trained in the areas of consumer credit, money and debt management, and budgeting. Counselors discuss your entire financial situation with you, and help you develop a personalized plan to solve your money problems. An initial counseling session typically lasts an hour, with an offer of follow-up sessions.
A reputable credit counseling agency should send you free information about itself and the services it provides without requiring you to provide any details about your situation. If a firm doesn’t do that, consider it a red flag and go elsewhere for help.
Once you’ve developed a list of potential counseling agencies, check them out with your state Attorney General, local consumer protection agency, and Better Business Bureau. They can tell you if consumers have filed complaints about them. (But even if there are no complaints about them, it’s not a guarantee that they’re legitimate.) The United States Trustee Program also keeps a list of credit counseling agencies that have been approved to provide pre-bankruptcy counseling. After you’ve done your background investigation, it’s time for the most important research — you should interview the final “candidates.”
Notice: If you are deep in debt, you may be better served working with a debt settlement agency. You will be required to have a minimum of $10,000 of unsecured debt and have a financial hardship. These agencies can often reduce debt substantially and get consumers out of debt much fast than a credit counseling agency can.
When calling 1800DEBT.COM for a FREE Debt Consultation the system will first ask how much unsecured debt that you have — Press 1 if over $10,000, Press 2 if under $10,000. If you press 1, based on that reply and on the area code you are calling from, you will be automatically directed to a debt specialist providing debt settlement services as well as credit counseling services in your area. Call right now! If you are not in a position to speak to a counselor at this moment in time, you may also click here to make your request online for a free consultation.
Questions To Ask The Credit Counseling Service
Here are some questions to ask to help you find the best counselor for you.
- What services do you offer? Look for an organization that offers a range of services, including budget counseling, and savings and debt management classes. Avoid organizations that push a debt management plan (DMP) as your only option before they spend a significant amount of time analyzing your financial situation.
- Do you offer information? Are educational materials available for free? Avoid organizations that charge for information.
- In addition to helping me solve my immediate problem, will you help me develop a plan for avoiding problems in the future?
- What are your fees? Are there set-up and/or monthly fees? Get a specific price quote in writing.
- What if I can’t afford to pay your fees or make contributions? If an organization won’t help you because you can’t afford to pay, look elsewhere for help.
- Will I have a formal written agreement or contract with you? Don’t sign anything without reading it first. Make sure all verbal promises are in writing.
- Are you licensed to offer your services in my state?
- What are the qualifications of your counselors? Are they accredited or certified by an outside organization? If so, by whom? If not, how are they trained? Try to use an organization whose counselors are trained by a non-affiliated party.
- What assurance do I have that information about me (including my address, phone number, and financial information) will be kept confidential and secure?
- How are your employees compensated? Are they paid more if I sign up for certain services, if I pay a fee, or if I make a contribution to your organization? If the answer is yes, consider it a red flag and go elsewhere for help.
Speak To A Certified Debt Professional
We strongly suggest that prior to engaging the services of any consumer credit counseling organization or other debt service that you first speak to several debt professionals. Obviously you can call anyone that you wish and speaking to 3 or more debt professionals may prove very beneficial in finding the right agency. So, by all means, be sure to check out the various resources listed on this page and website.
We highly recommend, however, that in your research you call 1800DEBT.COM for a FREE debt consultation. By calling this number you will not only be able to speak immediately to a "certified" debt specialist, but based on the area code you're calling from, your call will automatically be routed to a debt professional in your local area. Today, each state has their own laws, regulations and licensing requirements, so it's important to speak with someone who is familiar with your particular area.
In addition, the certified debt specialist will be able to assist you in various ways depending on your particular situation. So do yourself and your loved ones a favor and call right now and speak to a debt professional. The call is absolutely free, completely confidential and there is no obligation whatsoever. You truly have nothing to lose, except, that is — your debt!
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