Debt Management: Take Counsel With Caution

With credit-card debt at record levels, the number of consumer credit-counseling agencies has mushroomed--and so have deceptive practices, say two advocacy groups, the Consumer Federation of America and the National Consumer Law Center.

Credit counselors offer services from budget advice to hands-on bill management. Signs that you may benefit from such help can be obvious--you're behind on payments--or more subtle--you spend more than a quarter of your after-tax income on nonhome, noncar debt. There's no quick way to check an agency because the industry is largely unregulated. But here are some pointers:

--Fees are rising nationally. Insist on finding out about...

Want the full story?

Subscribe Now

Subscribe
Subscribe

Get TIME the way you want it

  • One Week Digital Pass — $4.99
  • Monthly Pay-As-You-Go DIGITAL ACCESS$2.99
  • One Year ALL ACCESSJust $30!   Best Deal!
    Print Magazine + Digital Edition + Subscriber-only Content on TIME.com

Learn more about the benefits of being a TIME subscriber

If you are already a subscriber sign up — registration is free!