There are hundreds of credit counseling agencies listed online, in the yellow pages, and even in television ads, so how do you go about choosing the one that is right for you, as well as guaranteeing their legitimacy? As you are probably aware, not all agencies are reputable, some make fantastic claims that can’t possibly be true, and others charge exorbitant fees for their services. If you are already in debt, you can’t possibly come up with a substantial amount of money to cover this fee. How to weed out the good from the bad?
First of all, don’t believe anything you hear or read. That company touting their ad on television (and there are a lot of them) is going to say exactly what you want to hear. They tell you that they can “erase” your debt, and that is not true. The only way to erase all your debt is to either pay it off, or file bankruptcy. They may also state that they have attorneys standing by to work on your side-again, bankruptcy! Legitimate credit counseling agencies have no need for attorneys, so again, beware of statements like this. Dialing the phone number, or visiting the website may be the biggest mistake you will ever make.
Instead, if you find yourself becoming buried in debt, seek the services of an agency that has your best interests in mind, works to help you manage your debt, and doesn’t make unrealistic promises. Counseling is just that-counseling. No debt elimination, just plain facts and proven methods to teach you how to take hold of your finances and get you started on the road to financial freedom. Nothing is going to happen overnight, either. It takes time to surmount that mountain of bills, but with patience and determination, and the assistance of a qualified counselor, you can do it.
If you go online, you are going to see literally hundreds of credit counseling agencies listed. Choose at least five of them to research-don’t jump at the first one, don’t close your eyes and pick the one your finger lands on, and do not use the old “eeny, meeny” method. The company should have statistics listed on their website. Look for things like the length of time they have been in business, whether they are listed with the BBB, (Better Business Bureau) and if they are affiliated with the National Foundation for Credit Counseling or the Association of Independent Consumer Credit Counseling Agencies. Companies with these accreditations are probably the best.
Check to see whether they are a non-profit organization, or operate on a for-profit basis. Not that any one is better than the other, but many non-profit agencies have fees that are considerably lower in some instances. Don’t make the mistake of thinking all non-profit agencies charge the same low fee, however. There may be hidden charges involved, so take the time to read all pertinent information. Don’t take “testimonials” at face value. Some companies pay a fee to people to make these statements, just like the people you see on television. The best way to avoid this is to ignore these statements, and not let them figure into your decision.
Narrow your choices down to two specific agencies. Make phone calls or visit the website of the BBB. Check to see what, if anything has been posted about this company. Are people complaining about the agency? Have legitimate complaints been filed, and if so, how many? What is the nature of the complaint? These are all things you absolutely have to know about any company that is going to have access to your financial information. Being careless can land you in a world of hurt if your identity is stolen. Use a search engine to pull up information about any company you are considering. Legitimate companies have nothing to hide and the information is out there for anyone to see.
Credit counseling agencies can be lifesavers for people who are beginning to be overwhelmed by debt, but at the same time you must take every precaution to protect yourself and your information. A top notch, reputable company will be willing to work with you to resolve your issues at a reasonable price, and once you find this one company you can rest easier knowing you are in competent hands.