Finding a Reputable Credit Counseling Service
5 tips to ensure you enlist the help of the right team for your needs.
Dealing with debt problems is tough enough, but you can make a bad situation worse if you ask for help from the wrong company when you’re looking for debt relief. The FTC reports that debt help schemes are among the Top 20 most common types of financial fraud a consumer can face in the U.S. today. In 2014, more than 12,000 consumers faced issues with disreputable companies that took advantage of their situations in order to profit.
So how can you find a reputable and reliable organization to help you with your debt? The information below can help you. In fact, the five tips below are good to keep in mind for almost any service-based industry you use as a consumer. If you have questions or want to know more about Consolidated Credit, call us at to speak with a certified credit counselor at no charge. You can also complete an online application to request help now.
Tip No. 1: Always refer to the BBB
The Better Business Bureau is effectively your first line of defense against fraudulent financial services. Any company you work with should have an A rating (or even better, an A+) with the BBB. You should always investigate a company’s BBB page to see:
- How long they’ve been in business as a BBB member
- How many complaints the company has received and how they were handled
- How many positive reviews the company has received through the BBB
The former head of the South Florida Better Business Bureau, Brodie White, explains how you can use the BBB to evaluate a company in this helpful video:
Tip No. 2: Opt for third-party reviews
These days you can ask the internet about almost any company and get a wide range of reviews about their service. What you really want to focus on are the reviews that appear on independent third-party websites that aren’t directly associated with that company.
A few positive comments on the company website are fine, but they’re likely to only publish the things that make them look the best. A third-party site is only as good as the trust it provides to consumers, so they’re less likely to let companies cherry-pick their reviews. This means you can get the good and the bad, instead of just the good.
Keep in mind that almost any company that has been in business for a few years is likely to have a negative review or two – that’s just business. However, if you see the same negative comments consistently with no response from the company, then it should raise a red flag.
Tip No. 3: Nonprofits are there for you
When it comes to credit counseling services, you really want to opt for a nonprofit organization rather than a for-profit corporation. Why?
A nonprofit credit counseling agency is required to provide unbiased financial assistance to consumers. That means if you call for a consultation (which would be free with a nonprofit) that they have to tell you about ALL of your options and help you select the one that’s BEST in your unique financial situation.
Tip No. 4: Upfront fees = fraud
Federal regulations prevent credit counseling services and debt relief companies from charging upfront fees before any work is done to assist with the debt. If the company you call wants a fee for their initial consultation or they want a large sum of money in advance before your debt is consolidated or a plan is made, then it’s a sure sign of a fraudulent service.
With reputable credit counseling services, the initial debt evaluation you receive to review your options is always free. Then, if you decide to enroll in a debt management program, any setup and monthly account maintenance are determined by your budget and rolled into the payment you make. So your debt is already consolidated and your creditors agree to the negotiated payment plan before you pay a dime.
Tip No. 5: Your comfort level after the consultation
The final step you should take to ensure you’re working with the right company should come during that initial free consultation and debt evaluation. First, the representative you’re speaking with should be a certified credit counselor – not a sales rep or uncertified customer service agent.
During the consultation, the counselor should ask specific and detailed questions to get the full scope of your situation. The more questions they ask, the more accurately they can understand the challenges you face so they can help you find the best solution.
By the end of the consultation, you should feel that weight lifting off your shoulders that you’ve finally gotten a plan in place to solve the issues you’re having. If you finish the consultation and feel worse or are scared that you might still be getting scammed, don’t sign anything! Call another company and see if you get a better read. At the end of the day, you can always call back and enroll if you research more and find the first company was above board.