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Finding an expert to help tackle credit card debt

How do you find someone trustworthy to help deal with credit card debt? @Davidlaz has the answer

Suzan says she's "overwhelmed with credit card debt" and is seeking a way to settle with her creditors — hopefully for a lower amount than she currently owes.

She wants to know where to turn.

First off, Suzan isn't alone. According to the latest stats, American consumers collectively owe nearly $670 billion in credit card debt.

ASK LAZ: Smart answers to consumer questions

So the first lesson for people overwhelmed with such obligations is to avoid getting into these situations in the first place. Go easy on the plastic.

That said, you'll encounter plenty of "experts" and businesses online who say they can lower your debt and get you off the hook. Avoid them. The vast majority won't do anything except take your money for little if any improvement in your financial profile.

Your best bet is to seek a licensed credit counselor — one that doesn't demand money up front for his or her services.

There are two main organizations to turn to:

The National Foundation for Credit Counseling.

The Assn. of Independent Consumer Credit Counseling Agencies.

The websites for both will allow you to search for an accredited counselor in your area. And in many cases, you won't face out-of-pocket costs for their service; the creditor often pays.

Will that counselor be able to reduce your debt load or lower your payments? Maybe — but not always. However, they'll likely be able to guide you toward the best plan of action for your situation.

If you have a consumer question, email me at asklaz@latimes.com or contact me via Twitter @Davidlaz.


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