The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) is the nation's consumer protection agency. It, along with a handful of state Attorneys General, recently filed lawsuits against a slew of companies they believe are guilty of ripping off consumers by charging high fees for services, lying about their nonprofit status, and not making payments on time—or, in some cases, at all—on behalf of customers. To ensure you are dealing with a reputable credit counseling service, look for an agency that offers a variety of services, including: • Budget counseling • Savings and debt management classes, not just debt management plans • Is licensed to provide services in your state • Provides written agreements that specify the services to be provided and all fees to be charged • Can demonstrate to you exactly what measures it has in place to protect the privacy of your financial information. Avoid doing business with any agency that is unwilling to answer your questions, and never, never, commit to anything without first receiving and reviewing a written service agreement from the agency.
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