Non Profit Consumer Credit Counseling Agency Advices
In order not to fall in the trap of the many consumer credit agencies that try to take advantage of your delicate position, read this article, which provides advice on how to choose a reliable consumer credit counseling agency.
First of all, when deciding on the counseling agency, keep in mind that it should be a non-profit institution. Furthermore, the agency should be able to prove its legitimacy with current accreditations from the Council on Accreditation (COA) or the International Standards organization (ISO). Another criterion that determines to a great extent the trustworthiness of the consumer credit counseling agency is the time it has spent in the business. It is recommended to choose an agency that has spent at least 10 years.
You should also keep in mind that the counselors themselves should be certified, not only the agency as a whole. They should prove their legitimacy through certificates from a third independent organization. Authorization from the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) is required for agencies that provide counseling on above credit card debt.
Never be too hasty and entrust your money to the first counseling firm that is presented trustworthy by its representatives. Never forget to verify the provided information with a third independent party. You can do this with:
- Better Business Bureau (BBB)
By browsing through the BBB's website, locate the nearest to your location office of BBB and make a request about the number of complaints that has been received regarding the agency under consideration. You should ask how many of them have been resolved. If the number of unresolved complaints is too much, try to find another counseling agency.
- National Association of Attorneys General (NAAG)
In order to locate the office of your state's Attorney General (AG) refer to the NAAG website. As with the BBB, the state AG provides information about the number of complaints that have been received about a certain counseling company. Additionally, they provide information about whether any legal actions have been prosecuted against the agency.
GuideStar provides extensive lists on consumer credit counseling agencies from which you can choose. After deciding on a particular agency, you can verify its trustworthiness through the provided information on exorbitant salaries for example. Another red flag you should be watchful of is the possession of the agency's boss of a for-profit organization that receives payments from the agency itself. This retransferring of funds to for-profit organizations, most of the cases held by relatives, is very common among many agencies.
Aside of the mentioned above information, you should keep the following details in mind before signing your contract with the consumer credit counseling agency:
The fees you are charged should be within reasonable levels. This means that you should not be charged more than $50 per month on a debt management plan. Additionally, the fee for establishing an account and negotiating with the creditors should not exceed $100. Finally, there are many agencies that are willing to exempt you from paying fees due to your financial inability to do so. Therefore, do your best to find such an agency.
- Enough time
You should be given enough time during your first appointment in order to better present your situation. Usually, not less than an hour is enough.
- A written plan
- A written budget
This budget should be thoroughly based on your current financial situation and be customized to meet your needs.
You should be able to collect all of the stated information in order to be sure that you are entrusting your money with a reputable agency. If the credit counseling agency is not cooperative enough and reluctant to answer all your questions, then you should consider changing your choice with another counseling agency. You should be sure that the agency is genuinely considerate about relieving your short term and long term financial situation.
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