How to Find a Legitimate Debt Counseling Service
Do You Need Debt Counseling?
Search Safely for the Financial Assistance You Need When the Chips are Down
You can only control debt when you have the financial means to continue to pay on it. At this moment in time millions of suddenly unemployed Americans are collectively finding out what kind of panic settles in when credit card due dates pass without payment, and medical bills fall delinquent. That’s just the beginning—there’s immediate cash demands as well, including those necessary for heating your home, keeping the lights on, food on the table, gas in the car, roof over your head—the stuff you need for your everyday survival.
Mounting, unpaid debt is not an easy road to go down. I see debt collectors…
People are scared.
- Who offers you support when you’re suddenly in over your head in debt?
- Who can you really trust in shark-infested waters?
Debt Counseling Services: Good Guys vs. Bad Guys
Businesses promising to cure and eliminate your debt are everywhere, many intentionally capitalizing on the financial wreckage that once was self-sustaining families and individuals. Not all of these “debt and credit counseling services” are created alike. And here’s one reliable way in which you can distinguish Good Guy from Bad Guy:
Use the resources provided by the Association of Independent Consumer Credit Counseling Agencies (AICCCA) to search for a legitimate debt counseling company in your state. The AICCCA unifies, into a membership organization, those credit counseling companies that have committed to adhering to strict codes of service and business practices, including the following Standards of Compliance:
- not-for-profit businesses
- offer clients a wide range of financial products and services available upon request
- offer counseling and services regardless of your ability to pay
- provide those services as affordably as possible and with respect to your financial situation
- provide you with a comprehensive educational library and financial “assessment” designed to help you create a more sustainable financial lifestyle, set goals and budgets, and manage your credit and debt.
- for debt management services, to provide an itemized repayment plan including your length of repayment and your creditors.
- annual accreditation by COA (Council on Accreditation) or Bureau Veritas. *
Tip: When shopping for a credit counseling agency, look for the AICCCA symbol, the Bureau Veritas Certification insignia, the COA symbol, and the Better Business Bureau insignia. All are trusted business credentials.
Is Debt Counseling for You?
Maybe you never dreamed you’d need to seek advice on how to deal with credit card debt—it’s kind of personal. Truth is, you don’t have to be unemployed or destitute to seek assistance and advice from a credit counselor, although many people now are unemployed and close enough to destitute. Much of the educational services these companies offer can be tailored to fit the needs of a wide range of customer and financial situations.
Credit counseling services typically offer the following:
- Financial advising and budget planning, including goal-setting and review of your overall financial status, behaviors and habits.
- Credit and debt advising including a review of your credit history, analysis of your debt-to-income ratio, and relevant strategies for taking control of this portion of your financial life.
- Debt management services that, if necessary, can help relieve your debt burden so you can pay off your obligations quickly and be done with them.
- All of the above with respect to your financial privacy.
When your income has been drastically reduced due to salary cut-backs and lay-offs, chances are you can become debt-burdened lightning-quick and there’s almost no stopping it. So right now is certainly an appropriate time to get up to speed on who these companies are, what they offer, how it can benefit you, and how you can make a reliable choice when the chips are down.
Tip: If you already have debt collection agencies harassing you via phone and/or mail, find out right now how you can stop it so you can give yourself some breathing room. Read about your rights under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act.
* AICCCA.org, Standards of Compliance.