Credit counseling services provide resources to help solve your money problems. Counselors discuss your entire financial situation and help you develop a personalized plan. They can assist you with starting a budget. And they can help you find educational programs on money management.
You can find free or low-cost credit counseling options at:
It’s important that your credit counseling service be accredited by either of these organizations:
The Servicemembers Civil Relief Act (SCRA) assists active-duty military with financial burdens. Under this act, you may qualify for a reduced interest rate on mortgages and credit card debts. It can offer protection from eviction. It can also delay civil court including bankruptcy, foreclosure, or divorce proceedings. To find out if you qualify, contact your local Armed Forces Legal Assistance office.
A debt collector generally is a person or company that regularly collects debts owed to others, usually when those debts are past-due. This includes collection agencies, lawyers who collect debts as part of their business, and companies that buy delinquent debts and then try to collect them. The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) prohibits debt collectors from using abusive, unfair, or deceptive practices to collect from you.
The Act covers personal, family, and household debts. This includes money owed on personal credit card accounts, auto loans, medical bills, and mortgages. The FDCPA does not cover debts incurred in running a business.
Within five days after a debt collector first contacts you, the collector must send you a written notice that tells you the name of the creditor, how much you owe, and what action to take if you believe you do not owe the money. If you owe the money or part of it, contact the creditor to arrange for payment. If you believe you do not owe the money, contact the creditor in writing and send a copy to the collection agency informing them with a letter not to contact you.
A debt collector may not:
Report any problems you have with a debt collection company to your State Attorney General’s Office, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB). Many states have their own debt collection laws that are different from the federal Fair Debt Collection Practices Act. Your state Attorney General’s office can help you find out your rights under your state’s law.
If you’re unable to pay your creditors, filing for bankruptcy can help you get a fresh start. Bankruptcy involves liquidating or selling off your assets to pay your debts. Or, it can mean creating a payment plan. Before considering bankruptcy, you should first explore other debt management options. Bankruptcy information stays on a credit report for 10 years. It can also make it difficult to get credit, buy a home, get life insurance, or sometimes get a job.
Federal courts have jurisdiction over all bankruptcy laws, so you’ll file a petition in a federal bankruptcy court. There are two main types of personal bankruptcy:
The Bankruptcy Abuse Prevention and Consumer Protection Act of 2005 (PDF, Download Adobe Reader) established stricter rules. These rules apply to both consumers and attorneys. To file for bankruptcy, you’ll need to:
The bankruptcy and petition process is complicated, so it can be difficult to file without an attorney. Attorney fees are extra and vary.
You can file a fraud report with the U.S. Trustee Program at the Department of Justice (DOJ).
Article Author USA.gov