Debt counseling has become a $ 7 billion dollar industry, but not all of them play fair. 10 years ago the credit counseling industry was dominated by the National Foundation for Credit Counseling, who nonprofit affiliates, usually known as Consumer Credit Counseling Services, would negotiate lower interest rates and payment plans for people who were behind in their payments. Now Consumer Credit Counseling Services are in just about every city.
The services have plenty of competition now. A rise in consumer debt in the 1990s helped create hundreds of rivals. Some of these rivals have million-dollar advertising budgets, slick Internet come-ons and sound alike names.
Some of the recent rivals actually will negotiate a good repayment plan, while others only charge large, upfront fees, pay their executives even larger salaries and pocket most of the money that should be going to pay off creditors. Some of these companies will target people who are not late on their payments, but are tired of the high interest fees..
The really bad ones of the lot are not even credit counselors. They will usually bill themselves as specialist in “debt settlement”, they promise to help you get rid of your debts for pennies on the dollar, of course that would be after you pay their upfront fee of $ 3000 or more. In many cases by the time someone, who could do something about them, hears about these types of companies, they have already left with the victim’s cash, disconnected their phone lines, and are now doing business under a different name somewhere else.
Since these people don’t seem to have any trouble finding someone in need of their services, there are plenty of people out there who need the services of a legitimate credit counseling company. It is hard to get an accurate count of the number of people who have used credit counseling services for debt repayment. Of those in debt repayment plans only about half are expected to successfully complete their repayment plans. The other half will drop out, with some of them filing for bankruptcy.
Most credit counseling services will negotiate lower payments with credit card companies and other lenders, then will make the arranged payment to the creditors using a check or an electronic transfer given to them by the client.
Many of the credit counseling services receive their fees from the lenders themselves, which is sent back to the service from the portion they have received. Because of this many critics have accused credit counseling services of being a tool of the lending industry.
Because the payment system is known as “fair share”, it has encouraged the growth of credit counseling services. This has caused some agencies, driven by competition, to openly target consumers who have not fallen behind in their debts by promising lower interest rates. This practice has angered credit card companies and many times hurts the consumers. These consumers find out too late that these types of plans can hurt their credit and are unnecessary.
Just so that you understand. If you are able to make your payments and are current on all of your accounts, you do not need the services of a credit counseling agency. If your interest rates are too high, many time you can negotiate a lower rate with your credit card company, all you have to do is ask or threaten to take your business elsewhere.
If you are unsure whether or not you need a credit counseling service, look at this list below.
You are unable to pay even the minimum payment on your credit cards.
You are always late paying one or more of your regular bills.
You have collection agencies and your creditors calling you all the time.
You have tried to work out a reasonable payment plan with your creditors, but have been unable to do so.
If you are too far in debt, credit counseling may not be able to help. Your creditors will have their limits as to how far down they will go, and the credit counseling service may not be able to get your payment low enough to give you breathing room or to help you get out of debt. It this is the case, bankruptcy may be the best option for you.
If you are in need of a credit counseling service, here are some things to watch out for.
Large upfront fees Consumer Credit Counseling Services will usually charge a $ 10 set-up fee. Do not go with anyone trying to charge you more.
No accreditation Legitimate credit counseling services are affiliated with the National Foundation for Credit Counseling or the Association of Independent Consumer Credit Counseling Agencies.
Delayed or missing payments Some companies will pocket the first payment as a fee rather than pay your creditors. This can hurt your credit rating. Make sure you know the amount going to your creditors and when it is sent to them.
Unrealistic promises Watch out for companies who claim they can get rid of your debt for no money or for very little money without hurting your credit rating. Legitimate credit counseling services help you to pay back what you owe and will tell you upfront that there may be some affect to your credit rating.
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