Woman sheds $22,000 in debt: How a debt counselor helped get her there

“I would say it feels like you’re drowning, and you don’t have air. Like you’re trying to come up and it’s very stressful.”

Misty Douglas faced financial stress head-on to pay off more than $22,000 in debt.

Gas prices, food, and you’re especially if you’re a household with one income. Then you’re struggling and you’re needing to pull on other resources to cover those costs for the monthly expenses kind of thing.”

But Misty got through it with help from the non-profit credit counseling center Money Management International. They tackled her debt and the nearly 29% interest she was dealing with.

“We can look at reducing the rates by working with their creditors in a debt management plan which consolidates all their debt into one monthly payment and reduces the interest rate down to an average of about 7%.” said Thomas Nitzsche with the MMI.

Looking at her statement the interest on Misty’s debts fell quickly. And her largest single debt of $9k was reduced to 0% interest.

She recently became debt-free after paying $500 a month, for four years. Minimum payments would have had her on the hook for decades.

Misty found MMI through her job. Many employers have NFCC organizations listed through their employee assistance programs.

But the Better Business Bureau says be very careful when trying to find a counselor on your own.

“The Better Business Bureau has received over 11,000 complaints on debt relief, debt consolidation scams, specifically,” Paula Fleming told Boston 25 news Anchor Mark Ockerbloom.

Fleming is the Chief Marketing & Sales Officer for the BBB. The organization published a study this summer on scam concerns. She warns to look out for a company that guarantees to wipe out all of your debt for a small fee.

“People are in $30,000 worth of debt. , working with this person who appears to be trustworthy. And then they come to find out six months later none of their debt was wiped away,” Fleming said.

The BBB has some guidelines to help you find a program that will knock down your debt safely:

· Do your research: look at reviews and ratings online for red flags

· Work with your credit card company and banks: see if they’ll help you to lower that interest rate

· And never pay upfront - until the services are rendered.

The place to find a qualified debt counselor is here, at the National Foundation of Credit Counseling.

If you think you were the victim of fraud, you should report the company to the BBB, the Federal Trade Commission, or the Massachusetts Attorney General.

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