Frequently Asked Questions

Q. What are the benefits of working with you?

Our certified credit counselors will tailor confidential programs to meet your specific needs and help you get back on the road to financial freedom. Some of the benefits you may receive are:

– A better understanding of your options
– An increase in financial skills

– Referral to helpful resources you might qualify for

– Suggestions of what you might need to clarify with your bankruptcy attorney or lender
– Reduced creditor calls and waived late and over-limit fees
– Reduced payments
– Reduced interest and finance charges

Q. How much do your services cost?

Many of our counseling and educational programs are offered at no required fee. For individuals who enter into our Debt Management Plan, there is a $25 set-up fee and a minimal monthly contribution fee. There are fees for pre-bankruptcy counseling and education, and for Credit Report review. As a not-for-profit organization, we rely on donations to keep our doors open. Your donations are greatly appreciated!

Q. Are most creditors willing to work with your agency?

Yes, most creditors work with us and some even provide some financial assistance. Even for those creditors who do not support us, we will still try to work with them to reduce your payments if you decide to do a debt management plan.

Q. How are you funded?

The majority of our funding comes from client donations and fees and from voluntary contributions from creditors who participate in our debt management program (DMP). We get additional funding from grants — both private and governmental.

Q. What happens in my session with a Counselor?

A certified Credit Counselor will review your financial situation in a non-judgmental manner and provide possible solutions. They will make every attempt to help you develop an action plan that is personalized to your needs.

Q. Is counseling confidential?

Yes. Our counselors conduct all individual sessions in a private office. Client records are maintained in secure facilities.

Q. What is a Debt Management Plan (DMP)?

Our Debt Management Plan sets up a payment schedule for you to repay your debts. By voluntary agreement, you deposit funds with our agency each month. We send those funds to your creditors. If collectors call, you can ask them to contact us.

You may also receive a reduction or waiver in finance and/or other charges.

A DMP serves the dual role of:

– Helping you repay your debt
– Helping creditors to receive the money owed to them.

Q. If I enroll in a DMP, can I continue to use my credit cards?

No. As a rule, your creditors will close or suspend your lines of credit. In limited cases, one credit card may be kept out of the DMP, but such situations are rare and are evaluated on a case-by-case basis.

When you complete the DMP, some creditors may be willing to reestablish your credit based on your current ability to pay and your payment history while enrolled in the plan.

Q. How do I establish credit?

You need a steady work record and continued residence at the same address. If you do not have a checking account, open one and be careful not to bounce checks. You may apply for credit at a local department store or credit union. You might also consider a secured card, which requires you to deposit money as security for the charges you make on the card.

Q. Where can I get a copy of my credit report? How much does it cost?

You can get a free copy of your credit report every 12 months by contacting the three major credit-reporting agencies.
Click Here

Q. Can you fix my credit report or clean it up?

No. If negative comments on your credit report are correct, they can remain on your credit report for the amount allowed by law. This is generally for seven years, but there are some important exceptions. For example, a bankruptcy stays on your report for ten years. A judgement stays on for seven years OR until the statute of limitations runs out, whichever is longer. If you believe there are errors in your credit report, you must dispute them with the credit bureau in writing or via their on-line options. The bureau will follow up your request with your creditor. If the creditor agrees with you, your report will be changed. If the creditor disagrees, you may need to follow up further with the credit reporting bureaus.


Q. What is the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA)?

It’s a federal law that protects consumers from harassment or threats made by creditors and prohibits creditors from making false statements. This law also prohibits a debt collector from disclosing what you owe to anyone but your attorney.


Q. What is a “charge off?” If my debt has been “charged off,” can a creditor pursue collection?

When an account is considered noncollectable, a creditor will write it off as a bad debt or “charge off.” Depending on each creditor’s policy, a “charge off” will occur between 90 to 180 days after you become delinquent. However, a creditor can still pursue collection of the debt after a “charge off” and it will also be reported to the credit bureaus. You may still be charged interest and fees on the charged-off debt. The debt might also be sold to another company.


Q. My car was repossessed and resold. Am I liable for the difference between what the car sold for and what was owed?

Yes. If not paid, the creditor may initiate legal action for the difference between the sale price of the car and what you owed.


Q. What is a judgment?

A judgment is a decision issued by the court at the end of a lawsuit. If you are sued and either don’t file papers or file papers but eventually lose the case, the person who sued you will get a judgment. Most creditors need a court judgment to garnish your wages or put a lien on your property, but certain creditors do not have to go through the court judgment process in order to take these actions.


Q. My wages have been garnished. What does that mean?

When your wages are garnished (or attached), a sum of money is deducted from your paycheck and sent to the creditor. Wage garnishments are a common method used to collect a court judgment or child support.


Q. Can CCCS give legal opinions on my options?

No. Only an attorney can provide opinions about legal issues.


Q. Who is responsible for debts after divorce?

You will need to talk to an attorney about this question.


Q. What happens if I file bankruptcy?

There are two types of bankruptcy available to most individuals — Chapter 7 and Chapter 13. Both types of bankruptcy may get rid of debts where creditors have no specific rights to property and stop foreclosures, repossessions, garnishments, utility shut-offs, and debt collection activities. Bankruptcy usually does not wipe out child support, alimony, fines, taxes, and some student loan obligations.


Q. How does your program differ from Chapter 13 bankruptcy?

There is a lot of mis-information on the internet, and many people (including some law firms!) confuse credit counseling agencies with debt settlement companies. Our DMP is voluntary for both you and your creditors. Therefore, all creditors may not waive interest. Your full debt is repaid in monthly installments that your creditor has agreed to. A creditor might report to the credit reporting bureaus that you are in a debt repayment plan, but this is not a factor in your score. In contrast, when you file for Chapter 13 bankruptcy the court will administer the plan and depending on the plan you may or may not end up re-paying all the debt. The interest rate for unsecured debt is typically 0% in a chapter 13 bankruptcy. You may also have more difficulty obtaining credit in the future because a bankruptcy does affect your credit score. Any type of bankruptcy is a matter of public record.


Q. How long does a bankruptcy stay on my credit report and how does it affect my credit?

Under the Fair Credit Reporting Act – a federal law – a bankruptcy can remain on your credit report for up to 10 years and won’t clean up a bad credit record.


Q. If I need legal advice on filing bankruptcy, and don’t have the money to pay for an attorney, what should I do?

You can contact the local bar association, legal aid services, or a university law school with a legal assistance program for a referral to an attorney. Some counties are served by free legal aid clinics, and you can contact one of them to see if they provide help with bankruptcies.

During the COVID-19 crisis our offices will remain open to phone appointments, but will not be seeing face-to-face clients or holding group workshops at this time. Our DMP program will continue to function as usual and creditors are continuing to require payments be made as scheduled.