The debt relief industry has long been over saturated with marketing, and one thing I have always found quite perplexing is that every advertisement claims that their program is “The Best.”Just once I would like to see an ad that says “we really have no idea what we are doing, but if you call us, we would be happy to sell you something whether you actually need it or not” since, unfortunately, that’s how some programs operate.
A Consumer’s Guide to Finding the Best Credit Counseling Programs
Since we are never going to see that kind of honesty in advertisements, I put together a consumer cheat sheet to help you find out who the Best Credit Counseling Programs really are. Sticking to this list will go a long way to help ensure that you are hiring a reputable credit counseling organization.
1. What specific services are offered by the company?
Quite often consumers will hear terms like Credit Counseling, Debt Consolidation, and Debt Settlement. Be sure that you first understand specifically what type of relief you are looking for and know the difference between them. You may find yourself talking to a Debt Settlement sales person when you are actually looking for a Credit Counseling Program. So make sure to first confirm that the service being offered is the one you need.
2. What is their BBB rating and complaint history?
Checking the complaint history on the Better Business Bureau is mandatory. If you find an unusually large number of complaints from past clients and an unsatisfactory rating with the BBB, then there is little reason to spend any more time investigating the program as a possible partner to assist you with your financial issues.
Be sure to put the number of complaints into perspective as well. For instance if a company has 50 resolved complaints over the last few years out of 50,000 clients, then it shouldn’t raise huge red flags. However, if you see several hundred complaints from a small company, that would indicate some issues.
3. What associations do they belong to?
Are they active members of a reputable Credit Counseling Association such as the AICCCA or the NFCC? If not, ask them why. Perhaps they are accredited by another organization. You want to know who is vouching for them.
4. Are their counselors licensed?
Is the person offering you financial advice even qualified to give it to you? What education or certifications do they have?
5. What does Google say?
It is hard to hide things from Google. If it exists on the web, Google will usually find it. Take some time to Google an organization and see what you find. Are you finding large numbers of complaints on various websites, lawsuits, or anything else that would raise red flags? Are you not finding anything in Google? Sometimes little to no information is a sign of a relatively new organization.
6. How transparent is the company?
Is the company upfront with consumers about their successes and failures? Companies that are reluctant to share their results might have a reason for not doing so. If you don’t see any published statistics, ask for them.
7. What is the background of the management team?
Who is running the show? What do you know about them? If you cannot find any information about the management team on the company website you need to start wondering why. Perhaps the owner of the company has little to no experience running a credit counseling organization.
While this is certainly not an exhaustive guide for consumers to find the Best Credit Counseling Programs, it is a great starting point to separate the wheat from the chaff and help ensure that the Credit Counseling Program you select is reputable and one that will be a great partner in your path to eventual debt freedom.
If you have a question about Credit Counseling or a good tip to share, please let us know in the comments below.
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