Pledging to fix finance and debt problems as a New Year's resolution? Better Business Bureau serving Alaska, Oregon and Western Washington has resources and tips to help.
1) Utilize BBB's Managing Credit – Made Simpler. This free online program walks consumers through steps to better manage their credit, regardless of their financial situations. Visit www.bbb.org/credit-management.
2) Stay in contact with lenders. If having trouble with payments, try to work out a plan with them first before enlisting outside help. Be wary of companies that urge consumers to stop talking to lenders.
3) Understand debt help terms. Those who receive solicitations for debt help should understand the differences between debt consolidation, debt negotiation and debt elimination offers. Although some offers are legitimate; offers concerning debt "elimination" are virtually always scams.
4) Research aid companies. Before getting assistance from a debt help service, get a free BBB Reliability Report on the company at www.bbb.org. It may be a good idea to start with a credit counseling service; which are often nonprofits that offer financial guidance for a small fee or for free. Get details on services and fees in writing. Understand plans and if they will negatively or positively affect credit scores.
5) Verify legitimacy of unknown debt calls. Ask debt collectors to provide official documentation to substantiate debt. If contacted unexpectedly by a debt collector or debt help company, do not provide or confirm any bank account, credit card or other personal information over the phone until confirming the legitimacy of the call.
Beware of offers that sound too good to be true. Remember, debt doesn't disappear overnight, so be cautious of companies making inflated unsubstantiated claims and guarantees. For more financial tips, visit www.bbb.org.