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Consumer Tips: Managing Debt

Where do I start?

  • Make a budget
    • Write down what you make and spend in a month
    • Look at where your money goes
    • Look for ways to save money
  • Call the companies where you owe money
    • Explain why you have trouble paying the bill
    • Ask for a plan to let you pay less each month
  • Get help from a credit counselor

How can I get help?

Look for a credit counselor who will meet you in person.  Then ask questions.  These questions will help you select a counselor:

  • What can you do to help me?
  • How much will I have to pay?
  • Do you have free education and information?
  • Are you licensed to work in my state?

Look for a credit counselor who can do the most for you.  You might have to pay some money for help.  But a good credit counselor will not ask you to pay in advance.

What do I do about calls from debt collectors?

When you talk to a debt collector:

  • Keep a notebook by your phone or with you
  • Ask:  What is your name, company, address, and phone number?  Write the answers.  Write the date and time you talked.
  • Say:  I will only talk when I get the written validation notice.
  • If the collector threatens you or uses bad language, hang up.  He is breaking the law.
  • You can file a complaint about a debt collector by calling the Federal Trade Commission at 1-877-382-4357.

When you get the validation notice:

  • See if you recognize the debt.  The notice should list the "creditor."  The creditor is the person you owe money to.  You can call the creditor to get more information.
  • If you do not think the debt is yours, follow the instructions in the notice.   It should tell you what to tdo next to question the debt.
  • If the debt is yours, make a plan for how to pay it.  Talk to a credit counselor.

If you want the collector to stop calling:

  • Write a letter to the debt collector.  Tell him to stop calling you immediately.  Send the letter by Certified Mail and ask for a "return receipt."  The law says he must stop calling you when he get your request in writing.
  • If that debt collector still calls, file a complaint.  Call the Federal Trade Commission at 1-877-382-4357.