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North Carolina Department of Justice
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Getting Out of Debt

If you’re trying to get your finances in order, steer clear of scams that could drive you even further into debt.
 
  • Watch out for debt negotiation or debt settlement scams.
Avoid companies—including out-of-state lawyers—that offer to eliminate or cut your debts by negotiating with your creditors.  These operations typically collect large upfront fees but reach very few settlements with creditors, leaving you deeper in debt. Under North Carolina law, it’s illegal to collect any upfront fee for debt settlement services. 
 
  • Avoid debt consolidation that could lead to foreclosure.
Another option that has risks is consolidating your debt through a second mortgage or a home equity line of credit. Remember that these loans require you to put up your home as collateral. If you can’t make the payments or if your payments are late, you could lose your home.
 
To get your debts under control, try the following instead:
 
  • Contact your creditors to discuss your options for repayment.  Most companies are willing to set up special arrangements to help.   Be realistic about how quickly you'll be able to pay back what you owe before you agree to a payment plan.
 
  • Talk to a non-profit credit counselor.   If you're unable to stick to a budget or if you can't work out a repayment plan, consider contacting a credit counseling service.  Find an accredited, non-profit credit counselor in your area by contacting the National Foundation for Credit Counseling at 1-800-388-2227 or www.nfcc.org.  
 
  • Consider a debt management plan if recommended by a non-profit credit counselorIn a debt management plan, you deposit money each month with the credit counseling organization. The organization then uses that money to pay your bills according to a payment schedule the counselor develops with you and your creditors. Your creditors may agree to lower interest rates or waive certain fees, but check with them to confirm these offers. You may have to agree not to apply for or use any additional credit while you’re participating in the plan.
 
  • The fees that credit counselors can charge to set up and administer a debt management plan are restricted by North Carolina law. Credit counselors cannot charge more than $40 to set up a debt management plan, and counselors can charge monthly administrative fees of no more than 10% of the monthly payment, up to a maximum of $40 per month.
 
  • Consider contacting a local bankruptcy attorney if your debt situation is especially difficult.
 
 
We Can Help
 
Contact us to report a debt settlement scam or call toll free within North Carolina at 1-877-5-NO-SCAM.