If the credit-counseling firm you
hire messes up, it's your credit that takes the hit. Not to mention
that one firm might charge you hundreds of dollars more than another
agency doing exactly the same thing.
So it pays to shop
wisely. Ask the right questions before you sign on any dotted lines.
you're entering into," says Robin Holland, senior vice president
of customer service at Equifax, a credit-reporting agency. "It's
important for [consumers] to be educated and to do their homework."
The Federal Trade
Commission recommends consumers ask providers of debt-management
plans the following questions before agreeing to a plan:
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How much do I have to owe to use your services?
How do you determine the amount of my payment?
What happens if this is more than I can afford?
How does your debt-repayment plan work? How will
I know my creditors have received payments? Is client money put
in a separate account from operating funds?
How often can I get status reports on my accounts?
Can I get access to my accounts online or by phone?
Can you get my creditors to lower or eliminate
interest and finance charges or waive late fees?
Is a debt-repayment plan my only option?
What if I can't maintain the agreed-upon plan?
What debts will be excluded from the debt-repayment
Will you help me plan for payment of these debts?
Who will help me if I have problems with my accounts