Before discussing anything else, we’d like you to know that you have the option to fix everything yourself. Unfortunately success is not guaranteed as you have proven that you haven’t been able to manage your finances. But it could be worth a try. The good thing is that you will not be burdened with the additional costs of hiring someone to help you out. You will be able to concentrate all your funds on paying off your debts.
Find a good credit counselor. Almost all DMPs are administered by consumer credit counseling agencies--so much so, in fact, that the terms "credit counseling" and "debt management" are often used interchangeably. Thoroughly researching the agency is the most important thing to do before deciding to enroll in their debt management program. The FTC has put together a simple guide to help you get started and choose the right plan.
Yes, all unsecured debts should be included on your debt management plan. This means that all revolving credit accounts will be closed to further use. The purpose of this debt repayment program is to help consumers get out of debt. To do this, it’s important that no additional charges are made while are on the program. However, as with any rule, exceptions can occasionally be made. Discuss any accounts you’d like to keep open with your counselor.
There are four debt consolidation programs that can eliminate credit card debt: debt management programs; debt consolidation loans; debt settlement; and bankruptcy. The first two are aimed at consumers who have enough income to handle their debt, but need help organizing and dealing with it. The other two apply to consumers in desperate situations where the debt has reached drastic levels.
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Next, your credit counselor will compile your data and ask you to commit to a debt management plan if they believe it’s the best option. If you choose to move forward, you will begin making a single monthly payment to the credit counseling agency who will disburse the funds on your behalf. Your credit counselor may also suggest alternatives to debt management plans if they believe a better option is available.
Contact your bank and stop payments to the agency servicing your debt management program as soon as you become aware the agency has shut down. You should immediately contact the creditors involved and ask if you could continue paying them directly or would they work out another payment plan. Also, ask for a credit report and verify that previous payments you made to the DMP agency were sent to your creditors. If payments were missed, there could be some negative consequences to your credit score. Finally, you could contact a nonprofit credit counseling agency and ask them to intervene on your behalf with your creditors.
If you’re struggling with finding the best way to get out of debt, my advice is this: Don’t waste your time reading arguments all over the internet. Just pick the one that resonates with you and get going. Most of the people who berate others for not paying off debt in the “right” order or way have never even been in debt themselves — let alone gotten OUT. Don’t listen to people who purport to know what’s best for you when they’ve never been in a remotely similar situation. You know your life best.
InCharge Debt Solutions boasts one of the most polished websites of the companies I evaluated. The company’s debt management FAQs and financial education resources are very thorough. They are clear about fees ($50 to enroll and $49 monthly). They are also among the few companies that give you an idea of how much your interest rates might drop under a debt management plan (6% to 9%). InCharge is accredited by the BBB with A+ rating; other certifications include the NFCC and COA.
Talk with your credit card company, even if you have been turned down before. Rather than pay a company to talk to your creditor on your behalf, remember that you can do it yourself for free. You can find the telephone number on your card or your statement. Be persistent and polite. Keep good records of your debts, so that when you reach the credit card company, you can explain your situation. Your goal is to work out a modified payment plan that reduces your payments to a level you can manage.
Other times, we just become sick of living paycheck to paycheck, and decide we want a better life — and that’s OK, too. You shouldn’t have to confront disaster to decide you don’t want to struggle anymore, and that you want a simpler existence. For many people, becoming debt-free the hard way is the best and only way to take control of their lives and their futures.
Revolving (credit card) debt can have a great impact on credit scores as it will increase your balance-to-limit ratio and lower the amount of available credit that you have. The higher your revolving balances inch up to the limits, the more it hurts the credit scores. Depending on the situation and your credit scores, a bankruptcy, debt consolidation plan, or a setup of a budget and timeframe for getting out of debt could be options. Once you’re ankle-deep in revolving debt, it can be tricky to dig yourself out so getting professional advice is important.
They tell you to do something illegal. A certified credit counselor will never tell you to try and create a new identity to get away from your old debt. Companies that advise people to get new Social Security or Employer Identification Numbers (EINs) are scams! Credit counselors won’t even advise that you run or hide from creditors or collectors; they help you find ways to face your challenges directly.
The non-profits are a great place to call for access to various services, including credit, budget, debt, and general financial counseling. After applying, a certified, highly trained counselor will explore with you all of the options available that can help you get back on track with paying various bills you may be responsible for making. Assistance will be offered in various languages, including Spanish. They help with home loans, credit card, and medical debts among other needs. Also receive assistance in eliminating or consolidating payday loans.
It sounds like you have done what you can to protect yourself (credit freeze, law enforcement etc.) I am not sure what your bank will do but I can’t imagine they will pursue you for a crime committed against you. Have you changed the bank account you deposit your Social Security check into? If not, talk with your bank. It would seem to be a reasonable precaution.
Once you've got a list of counseling agencies you might do business with, check each one out with your state Attorney General and local consumer protection agency. They can tell you if consumers have filed complaints about any one of them. (If there are no complaints about them, don't consider it a guarantee that they're legitimate.) The United States Trustee Program also keeps a list of credit counseling agencies approved to provide pre-bankruptcy counseling. After you've done your background investigation, you will want to interview the final "candidates."
A debt management plan sets up a payment schedule for you to repay your debts, with the goal of helping creditors receive the money owed to them and ultimately improving your financial and credit standing. By voluntary agreement, you deposit funds with your credit counseling agency each month, who sends those funds directly to your creditors. It usually takes 3-5 years to complete payments under a debt management program, after which you may be able to reestablish credit.