Where to Turn?

Celebrities are often hired to promote financial products.  I’ve seen TV ads for two reverse mortgage lenders that featured celebrities who I recognized, and one of them was an actor who I really like.  But just four days ago the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) took action against both companies (along with a third) for deceptive advertising.  I have to believe that my guy just didn’t know any better.


This morning at our house we saw yet another TV commercial for a debt settlement firm; read what Alabama Consumer Credit Attorney Judson Crump has to say about this onein particular.  iSpot.tv, Inc. has posted many commercialsfor quick and easy solutions.  But as you know, the quick and easy is seldom the best – it often leaves us even worse off.


Though it really is fun for me to look into financial advertisements, I simply can’t justify the time to look into every one.  But I did remember seeing Montel Williams in a TV commercial a couple of years ago and clicked on one of his.


This company appears to be a lender, but it’s not – it’s a clearinghouse.  Here’s what my gut tells me about it:  A consumer willingly provides sensitive personal financial details and contact information that is then made available to any payday lender who subscribes to the service.  The hapless consumer is then bombarded with offers of “help”.


I would not respond to any of them.  Instead, I would talk with a bankruptcy counselor or a local attorney.


When we’re knee deep in debt it’s hard to know who to trust.  Google “debt relief” for a feel for what I mean – I just received more than six million results in less than a second!  Then there are robocalls, TV ads, phone book ads, direct mailings . . . how many are legitimate?


Financial struggles lead to feelings of helplessness and hopelessness, and have been linked to embezzlement, family discord, lowered worker productivity, and suicide.  When we’re desperate, we do desperate things.


High debt affects the married, single, widowed, and divorced, and spans ages, income levels, education levels, and political affiliations.


It’s not going out on a limb to predict that this month, Americans will spend more than is good for them.  Then, in the spring of 2017, debt counselors – both legitimate ones and fraudsters – will experience a spike in contacts from people at the end of their ropes.


Read the FTC’s Coping With Debtthat outlines various approaches for when someone is in debt.  Then, when a friend or loved one is struggling, help them make effective decisions.


There may be some very good counselors among the members of the Financial Counseling Association of America.  But today the only organization that I know I would trust would be a nonprofit, full-service debt management organization affiliated with the National Foundation for Credit Counseling (NFCC).


In Coping With Debt the FTC suggests, “If possible, find an organization that offers in-person counseling.”


In 2010, Lafayette’s NFCC affiliate closed, and its client accounts were transferred to a larger agency in northwestern Indiana.  Soon after, this company was itself absorbed by an even larger one based in Texas.


Three NFCC agencies still offer in-person counseling in Indiana: Apprisen (Indianapolis), GreenPath (Mishawaka),  and Consumer Credit Counseling Service of Northwest Indiana (Merrillville).


I want every one of you to be well and to do well.  Contact me if there’s a way I can help.


Kurt Burnett

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