Not all credit counseling agencies are created equally. Some are better equipped to educate individuals who are struggling with debt than others. Some are flat-out scams. If you are considering bankruptcy as a strategy for handling your personal debt, first educate yourself about credit counseling and how to find the right agency for you. During your first meeting with a credit counselor, ask the following questions to determine if he or she is the right counselor for you.
Is Your Agency Accredited?
For a bankruptcy case, any credit counseling agency is not necessarily enough. You will need to receive counseling from an agency approved by the Executive Office of United States Trustees.
In addition to determining whether an agency is qualified to provide your pre-bankruptcy counseling, ask if it is accredited by the National Foundation for Credit Counseling (NFCC), a nonprofit organization that certifies credit counseling agencies that meet its rigorous ethical standards.
How Much will it Cost Me to Work with You?
Many credit counseling agencies provide their services for free. Some charge nominal fees. Before agreeing to work with a credit counselor, know exactly what you will be expected to pay for his or her services. If a counselor cannot or will not give you this information at your first meeting or requires an upfront fee, do not work with him or her.
How Will We Work Together?
Before you commit to working with a credit counselor or agency, you should know how they will help you manage your debt. Credit counseling is primarily education about how credit and debt work and developing strategies to avoid accruing unmanageable debt in the future while paying off the debt you have now. Find out whether your counselor conducts sessions online, in person, or over the phone. Ask how frequently you will meet, how long it will take to complete the sessions, and what will be expected of you. Use this information to gauge whether a particular counselor is a good fit for you.
How are Your Services Funded?
Find out how the agency afford to provide its services. Some are funded with grants. Others are funded by creditors and credit card issuers. Ask this whether you work with a nonprofit or for-profit credit counseling agency – you have the right to know who is funding the services you receive to determine whether there is a conflict of interest with it.
Work with an Experienced Itasca Bankruptcy Lawyer
Before you file for bankruptcy, you will need to complete a credit counseling course. Your bankruptcy attorney can help you prepare for your first meeting with a credit counselor by discussing which questions you should ask, the answers you should receive, and how to tell the difference between a legitimate counseling agency and a scam. Contact our team of Itasca bankruptcy attorneys at Newland & Newland, LLP today to set up your initial consultation in our office. We serve clients in the Arlington Heights, Palatine, Rolling Meadows, Libertyville, Mundelein, Buffalo Grove, Schaumburg, Elk Grove, and Itasca areas.
(image courtesy of Nik Macmillan)