How To Find The Right Help For Your Credit Troubles
Credit counseling can be a great resource, if you need help managing debt or repairing damaged credit. But not all credit-counseling agencies are created equal.
Thats why its important to know how to select a reputable one. Qualified professional counselors can help you set up a budget, pay down debt, or even negotiate with creditors when you are seeking debt relief. So, how do you find a credit counseling agency thats knowledgeable, ethical, professional, and reasonably priced? Here are some tips to help you out:
SEE ALSO: Pinging Your Credit Report: The Consequences
1. Compile A List
The best way to start your search is by asking around. Firsthand information is usually the most reliable source you can get.
Friends, colleagues, and other trusted professionals youve worked with may be able to come up with a recommendation or two. Even if someone you know has had a bad experience with a counselor, you can learn from their experience and try not to make the same mistakes.
The Internet is also a great source of information. You can search for counselors available in your area, then check for any online reviews. Keep in mind, though, that these reviews may be forged, so check with the Better Business Bureau or your local consumer protection
agency if any complaints have been filed against the agency. You should aim for finding an agency with a long track record of superior customer service and satisfying results.
You can also try the U.S. Department of Justice, who operates a website
devoted to educate consumers who are faced with bankruptcy. This website contains a list of government approved credit counseling agencies,
which is searchable by state or by language services other than English and Spanish. Although these agencies are approved to provide pre-bankruptcy counseling, its still a good idea to do a little background check on those you are interested in.
2. Conduct Some Interviews
After compiling a list of agency choices, narrow down your options by contacting them and interviewing one of their representatives. Whether their services are offered in person, online, or over the phone, its good to ask a few things about who they are and what they offer.
Ask about their accreditations and certifications. Are their counselors experts and professionals certified by outside organizations,
or does the agency certify their own employees? Are counselors paid on commission, only getting a paycheck if they place consumers on certain programs? If they are, it could be a sign that the agency is more concerned about your wallet than your interests.
Also, if the counselor you are speaking with suggests a strategy or solution for you without fully going over and analyzing your financial situation, they most likely want to put you on a debt management program, which isnt necessarily what you need. Youre looking for credit counseling, which should be free until you sign up with them, so ask what they charge for fees (get this in writing if you can). You wont know what youll need until after the counselor has at least listened to your circumstances.
3. Beware Of Scams
With the number for credit counselors rising, so too have the number of credit counseling scams. It is unfortunate that there are individuals out there eager to take advantage of peoples misfortune and subsequent vulnerability,
but knowing that theyre out there is the first step to avoiding them. When looking for a credit counseling agency, here are a few indicators that they might be trying to scam you:
- Asking for payment upfront, before any services have been provided
- Unsolicited emails or telephone calls
- Promising deals that sound too good to be true
- High monthly charges
- Suggesting illegal actions (like creating a new identity to change your credit history)
Also remember that you should never give your personal or financial information to anyone, especially over the phone or internet, unless youve thoroughly researched them first.
Also make sure that the representative you are talking to actually works for the agency they claim to work for.
SEE ALSO: Identity Theft Goldmine: Magnetic Stripe Credit Cards
4. Take Your Time
Although you want to act quickly to take care of your financial problems, dont be rushed into making an immediate decision on the agency or offer you choose.
Take the time to evaluate each option so you choose the solution that best fits your needs. The main thing is to work with an agency that gets results and saves you money.
If youre still unsatisfied with the options you have, keep looking. Now that you know what to look for, dont settle for someone youre not comfortable working with. Its your financial welfare thats at stake, and who you choose can have a significant effect on your life.
So, wait until youve found an agency youre sure you can trust.