That's the principal finding of a recent online poll of more than 2,000 people.
The poll, conducted in July by the nonprofit National Foundation for Credit Counseling, or NFCC, found that:
- Forty-six percent of respondents where confused about where they could find "real help."
- Thirteen percent believed their problems were "beyond help."
- Twenty-four percent thought they wouldn't be able to afford credit counseling.
- Ten percent felt they could resolve their situation on their own.
- Six percent were "tired of trying" to find help or remedy their difficulties.
In a statement, NFCC spokeswoman Gail Cunningham characterizes these findings as "disturbing" in multiple ways.
"Many well-meaning consumers have been duped by unscrupulous businesses which charged them high fees, yet delivered little if any real help. Unfortunately, these types of activities not only tar the sector, but prevent consumers from seeking the help they need," Cunningham says.
In fact, services provided by NFCC member counseling agencies, among other reputable organizations, contrast starkly with such misperceptions.
NFCC agencies, which helped more than 3 million people last year, must obtain and maintain accreditation by an independent third-party, not-for-profit accrediting organization and must be re-accredited every four years. Credit counselors must understand the applicable theories, principles, issues, counseling techniques and forms, and demonstrate their knowledge through a test. Most NFCC-affiliated credit counseling programs are free and open to the public, the foundation says.
"The NFCC wants to send a loud message to consumers who are experiencing financial distress, and that message is that legitimate help is available," Cunningham says. "People owe it to themselves and to their family to reach out to a trained and certified counselor for a review of their situation."
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