To file a complaint or get free information about consumer issues from the Federal Trade Commission:
Most credit counselors offer services through local offices, the internet, or on the telephone. Many universities, military bases, credit unions, housing authorities, and branches of the U.S. Cooperative Extension Service operate nonprofit credit counseling programs. Financial institutions or local consumer protection agencies may also be good sources of information and referrals.
Reputable credit counseling organizations advise on managing money and debts, help develop a budget, and usually offer free educational materials and workshops. Counselors are certified and trained in the areas of consumer credit, money and debt management, and budgeting.
Counselors discuss the person’s entire financial situation and help develop a personalized plan. A reputable credit counseling agency should send free information about the services it provides without requiring any details about the individual’s situation. If a firm doesn’t do that, consider it a red flag and go elsewhere for help. Check out potential credit counseling agencies with the state Attorney General, local consumer protection agency, and Better Business Bureau.
Money is deposited each month with the credit counseling organization. The organization uses the deposits to pay unsecured debts, such as credit card bills, student loans, and medical bills, according to a planned payment schedule.
Creditors may agree to lower interest rates and waive certain fees, but check with all the creditors to be sure that they offer the concessions that a credit counseling organization describes. A successful DMP requires regular, timely payments and could take 48 months or longer to complete.
Avoid organizations that push a DMP as the only option before they do an analysis of the individual’s financial situation.
Debt negotiation is not the same thing as credit counseling or a DMP. It can be risky and have a negative impact on the individual’s credit report. Many states have laws regulating debt negotiation companies and the services they offer. Just because a debt negotiation company describes itself as a “nonprofit” organization, there’s no guarantee that the services offered are legitimate. Most debt negotiation companies charge consumers substantial fees for their services, including a fee to establish the account with the debt negotiator, a monthly service fee, and a final fee of a percentage of the money supposedly saved.
Be careful of debt negotiation companies that:
DISCLAIMER: This article contains general information for U.S. taxpayers and should not be relied upon as the only source of authority. Seek out professional tax, legal, or financial advice from CryptoTaxAudit or from other reputable companies.