Chapter 6. Debt Counselors: How to Tell the Bad from the Good
It's a foolish sheep that makes the wolf his counselor.
Tom Brown had been having trouble sleeping through the night because his financial troubles were building up. One fateful night after a couple hours of tossing and turning, he got up. He went to the living room and turned on the television. He heard these words: "Wouldn't it be nice not to have any debt? Think about how great your life would be! If you have over $10,000 in credit card debts, we can help you."
Knowing his growing debt load was responsible for his restless night, he figured he'd call the toll-free number and give it a chance. After all, what did he have to lose?
It's too bad Tom didn't see a December 2002 CBS news program on credit counseling. The program discussed how a credit counseling company, Financial Freedom, promised Romanita Berrios that she could eliminate her debt with one easy monthly payment. At the time Berrios, a registered nurse, had a perfect credit rating and was an on-time payer. But she soon faced hardship: she required open-heart surgery and the medical bills began piling up. Desperate, she signed up. As she said, "I did my part. I gave them the money every month."
The credit counselor promised he would lower her rates on her credit cards and pay them off. She soon saw her cards were not being paid; instead, her interest rates and late fees were adding up. Then collection calls ...