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Watch out for credit card debt relief companies that will make your finances worse

Credit-Card-G7A3E0F279_640For years, I had credit card debt. As a single woman, the expenses of running and maintaining a household, plus some travel to visit my daughter in Spain, were more than I could manage on my salary.

However, when I paid off my house early, I was able to pay off my credit cards quickly.

Credit card debt can be stressful. Interest rates can be high, and if you miss or can’t make your full payments, the growing balance can be overwhelming.

You might look for help from companies that promised to reduce or eliminate your credit card debt, for a fee. But, are they any good?

You need to be really careful when considering paying these companies, as a lawsuit by the Federal Trade Commission shows.

The FTC’s sued ACRO Services and related companies saying they operated a deceptive credit card debt relief scheme: claiming they could clear up your credit card debt. And they charged a lot of money. You’d have to sign up for their program, pay an enrollment fee (usually in the thousands) — plus monthly fees for “credit monitoring” services.

The FTC said consumers didn’t get much from the companies. After enrolling, it was often hard to reach anyone. If you did, you might get a form letter to dispute your debts — even when the company knew those debts were legitimate. 

Even worse, these companies would tell you to stop making payments and stop communicating with your credit card companies, the FTC said. If you followed that advice, you’d see increased fees, added interest, lower credit scores, and, sometimes, lawsuits from creditors.

If you’re looking for ways to pay off your credit cards more quickly, or get a lower interest rate, the FTC recommends:

  • Don’t pay upfront. It’s illegal for a debt relief company to charge you a fee before they do anything to relieve your debt.
  • Talk with your credit card company, for free. Call the customer service number on the back of your credit card. Ask for a payment plan that you’ll be able to afford.
  • Consider a reputable credit counselor. They can help you develop a payment plan that works for you.

If you’re approached by a company making claims like this, report them at ReportFraud.ftc.gov.

Originally Published on https://boomersurvive-thriveguide.typepad.com/the_survive_and_thrive_bo/

Rita Robison Consumer & Personal Finance Journalist

For more than two decades, Rita R. Robison has been a consumer and personal finance journalist making her living by finding the best bargains, calling out the crooks, and advocating for regular people just like you and me. In that time, Robison has talked to so many people who feel like their money just isn’t getting them what they want, where they want to be, or the life they thought it would.

The purpose of her blog is to help you get what you want from your money. Robison covers financial goals, budgets, debt reduction, saving, smart choices for buying goods and services, and retirement planning. You’ll also find articles on safety, such as avoiding scams, looking out for rip off companies, and getting informed on the latest recalls.

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