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Roughly a million Americans file for bankruptcy each year, and others are struggling with high levels of debt. This has created a demand for credit repair and credit counseling services. Those who need help may find that some service providers are scams that attempt to take a person’s money. However, there are a few ways that consumers may be able to protect themselves against such plots.

A major red flag to watch out for is a company that asks for money before any services have been rendered. Reputable companies will tend to advise consumers of their options, some of which may be free, before they make any debt relief recommendations. If this does not occur, it could be a sign that an individual is working with a less reputable company.

Credit counseling companies may claim that they can solve a debtor’s problems easily or offer a clean slate. However, this is often not possible, and a debtor could be left with a higher level of debt and credit accounts further past due. A debtor should ideally work with a nonprofit organization or an organization that gets high marks from consumer watchdog groups. It is a good idea to learn about all fees ahead of time, and an individual should never pay fees before services have been rendered.

Those who are dealing with a high level of debt may wish to consult a bankruptcy attorney. A bankruptcy attorney may be able to talk to a debtor about which type of bankruptcy to file for and the benefits of doing so such as the possibility of having debts discharged within weeks. An attorney may also be able to work with the debtor and his or her creditors to ensure that they are respecting a debtor’s rights throughout the bankruptcy process.

Source: Findlaw, “Avoiding Credit Repair and Credit Counseling Scams“, December 03, 2014