If you have decided to call a nonprofit credit counseling agency for help with your debt, a credit counselor will talk to you about your current financial situation. But what does a credit counselor do exactly? We will explain what happens when you call a credit counseling agency and how a credit counselor can help you get on the path to becoming debt free!
What happens when I call a credit counseling agency?
When you call a credit counseling agency, a credit counselor will take you through a free budget consultation session. During this session, they will try to get a complete picture of your finances. In order to make this session as efficient as possible, have your financial information readily available. You should gather any correspondence you have had with creditors, recent bills, bank statements, and pay stubs. The counselor will ask you about your income, expenses, assets, and liabilities. From there, they will give you advice on the best way to get rid of debt and get back on track financially. They may refer you to social or legal services, or enroll you in a debt management plan.
How can I tell if the credit counseling agency is reputable?
Unfortunately, there are a lot of financial scams out there. It’s a good idea to be skeptical and stay vigilant when you are seeking financial advice. You want to make sure the company you’re working with is a reputable company and not just trying to take your money. So how can you tell if a credit counseling agency is reputable or not? Here are a few things to look for:
- Nonprofit status
- Be in business for at least 7 years
- Have proper state licensing
- Charge no minimum fees
- Every credit counselor is certified
- Be a member of either the AICCCA or the NFCC
What questions should I ask a credit counselor before choosing to work with them?
- What services do you offer? Look for an organization that offers a range of services, including budget counseling, and savings and debt management classes. Avoid organizations that push a debt management plan (DMP) as your only option before they spend a significant amount of time analyzing your financial situation.
- Do you offer information? Are educational materials available for free? Avoid organizations that charge for information.
- In addition to helping me solve my immediate problem, will you help me develop a plan for avoiding problems in the future?
- What are your fees? Is there set-up and/or monthly fees? Get a specific price quote in writing.
- What if I can’t afford to pay your fees or make contributions? If an organization won’t help you because you can’t afford to pay, look elsewhere for help.
- Will I have a formal written agreement or contract with you? Don’t sign anything without reading it first. Make sure all verbal promises are in writing.
- Are you licensed to offer your services in my state?
- What are the qualifications of your counselors? Are they accredited or certified by an outside organization? If so, by whom? If not, how are they trained? Try to use an organization whose counselors are trained by a non-affiliated party.
- What assurance do I have that information about me (including my address, phone number, and financial information) will be kept confidential and secure?
- How are your employees compensated? Are they paid more if I sign up for certain services, if I pay a fee, or if I make a contribution to your organization? If the answer is yes, consider it a red flag and go elsewhere for help.
If you are struggling to pay off your debt, ACCC can help. Call 800-769-3571 today to speak to a certified credit counselor.