Q: I keep seeing credit counseling ads on TV. Some promise to reduce my debts; others say they’ll consolidate debts or repair credit. Is solving credit problems as easy as the ads suggest?
A: When it comes to credit problems, easy solutions are few and far between. Bills that took years to accumulate don’t disappear overnight. The right credit counseling agency can get consumers started on the road to financial recovery. An agency can help consumers trim expenses, analyze financial situations and develop a manageable household budget. Unfortunately, studies have shown that some credit counseling agencies are not providing real service to consumers.
Q: So how do I know which credit counseling agency will give me real service?
A: In order to find a credit counseling agency that is best for you, you should test the credibility and integrity of a prospective credit counseling organization by asking the following questions:
- Is the organization not-for-profit? How does it receive its funding?
- Are its services accredited (evaluated) by an outside organization?
- Is there real counseling rather than just a fifteen minute “enrollment”?
- Is counseling offered in person and on the phone and/or Internet?
- Are counselors certified?
- Are employees offered commissions to enroll clients?
- Are any fees or contributions disclosed clearly?
- Does a consumer’s first month’s payment go to the agency?
- How are client funds sent to creditors? How often?
- Will the credit counseling agency work with all creditors regardless of whether they financially support the credit counseling organization?
- What effect, if any, will working with the organization have on your credit rating?
Law You Can Use is a weekly consumer legal information column provided by the Ohio State Bar Association. This article was prepared by Jay Seaton of Apprisen, formerly Consumer Credit Counseling Service.