It’s a fresh start to a new year! Many of you are already on the path to becoming debt free, others are just starting. Regardless, anyone in debt needs to be aware of their rights as consumer’s and what protections we are ALL offered. My favorite resource on the matter is the Federal Trade Commission. I have bookmarked the YOUR RIGHTS page in my favorites, and reference it anytime I or a friend has a question.
It reminds you that you are entitled to FREE copies of your credit report annually, and gives the link to the free site. I suggest getting a copy from one agency in Jan, another in May, and the third in September. This guarantees you are looking at each one at least once a year, with a peak throughout the year for any red flags. The reports also come with instructions on how to clear up any errors that are listed, and then they typically send you a second copy of the report for free once the errors are gone.
The CREDIT CARDS AND CONSUMER LOANS page also has tons of valuable information. They give advice on what sites are legitimate, what sites are scams, information on credit counseling, how to legally improve your credit report, credit and divorce, debt collection arbitration, and paying the debts of a deceased relative, etc.
Two of the most helpful that I refer most often are:
Knee Deep in Debt [PDF] [en español]
If you or someone you know is in financial hot water, consider these options: realistic budgeting, credit counseling from a reputable organization, debt consolidation, or bankruptcy. Tips on getting back in the black.
Settling Your Credit Card Debts [PDF] [en español]
Lists options for help in managing your debt, including dealing with your creditors directly, contacting a credit counselor, and considering bankruptcy. What to watch out for from companies that promise to settle your debt.
The most important thing to remember when trying to stay or get back on track is that YOU DO HAVE RIGHTS. While it is important to work out arrangements, know what your rights are before you contact the company, know how much you can afford to pay, and make every effort to stick to your plan.
Happy New Year to you all, and let’s make a dent in our debt!