Many Americans, of all ages, are overwhelmed by debt. If you’re having trouble paying any debts or bills, there are ways to gain control.
If you think you won’t be able to make a loan or bill payment, contact the lender or others you owe. Lenders, utility companies, and other businesses may have solutions to help consumers who can’t make their payments. “If you wait long enough for a debt collector to contact you after having already missed payments, you may be subject to penalties, late fees or increased interest rates that you might have avoided,” noted Susan Boenau, Chief of the FDIC’s Consumer Affairs Section. “If you wait until your account is past due, you may also miss out on options your lender has to help borrowers who are not yet delinquent.”
If you can’t make a payment on your mortgage, call your lender or loan servicer as soon as you can, because if you default on the loan, you could lose your home. To learn more about your options for staying in your home, see the FDIC’s foreclosure prevention toolkit online at www.fdic.gov/consumers/loans/prevention/toolkit.html. For tips on repaying a student loan, see If You Need to Borrow for Higher Education.
Consider getting assistance from a reputable, nonprofit housing counselor (for rent or mortgage difficulties) or a credit counselor (for other debt). A counselor can help if you have trouble paying your bills or if you expect to in the future. “Be wary of paying a fee because this assistance is available at low cost or no cost from nonprofit organizations,” said Evelyn Manley, a Senior Consumer Affairs Specialist at the FDIC.
To find a reputable counselor, see the Web site below.
Be on guard against scams. Con- artists “guarantee” loan approvals or promise to settle debts for less than is owed, then collect high upfront fees for assistance that never materializes.
Remember that you have rights. Federal and state laws generally require that you be treated fairly and without harassment by those attempting to collect debts you may owe others.
For more information about how to overcome a variety of debt problems and find reliable help, see resources from the Federal Trade Commission at www.ftc.gov/bcp/menus/consumer/credit/debt.shtm.
Originally published in FDIC’s Consumer News