7 On Your Side: Debt settlement companies - KPLC 7 News, Lake Charles, Louisiana

7 On Your Side: Debt settlement companies

It's frustrating to sit down to pay the bills and realize there's no hope of paying everybody. So, many consumers seek help from debt settlement companies.

Carmen Million with the Better Business Bureau said debt settlement should be a last resort before filing bankruptcy.

"Probably the first thing you need to do as a consumer is contact your creditors yourself. You want to try to negotiate with those companies first. They may be willing to waive some of the fees if they understand that you're in a bind and that you want to pay it off. They may be willing to work with you," Million said.

If a company is asking for big fees up front, that should send up a red flag, Million said.

"What the Better Business Bureau recommends is that before you negotiate with any company to pay your debt, investigate the company. You want to make sure that you understand exactly what they are going to do for you and you need to get that in writing," she said.

You also want to beware if a company says it's going to be a fast, easy and painless process. That's probably too good to be true.

"You can also get with a consumer credit counseling agency that will set you on a budget. They will contact your creditors, they will negotiate those fees with you.  They will make you cut up your credit cards to make sure that you don't increase your debt," she said.

Million said if they tell you to just quit paying your creditors, that's a big mistake and can get you in a lot of trouble.

"If you quit paying your creditors, they will take legal action against you and just because a company tells you to quit paying, they're going to take over, doesn't mean that they can resolve your issues," she said.

Sadly, Million said many of the people who are victimized are those who are already at wits end, trying to figure out what to do about insurmountable debt.

"You're already in a bind. You don't want to make it larger or worse. And so you want to do your homework, investigate these companies. Check with the Better Business Bureau  before you do business with any company," she said.

For more tips on dealing with debt and getting help from a credit counseling agency, click HERE.

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