Money: When Debt Advice Turns Predatory

With personal bankruptcies nearing a record high, federal regulators issued a rare joint advisory last week warning the millions of Americans who turn to credit-counseling agencies each year to make sure they are dealing with legitimate nonprofits. The IRS is auditing a number of debt consolidators to see if they are abusing their tax-exempt status. Red flags to look for:

--Promises to help you "get out of debt easily" or remove negatives from your credit report

--High monthly fees or required "voluntary contributions"

--A push into repayment plans without help setting a budget.

To check out a specific nonprofit, ask state...

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