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Christmas Bills Arrive: Shoppers Looking for Credit Help

Financial counseling on the rise

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    NEWSLETTERS

    Consumer Bob Hansen

    Manuel Navarro says business picks up this time of year. 

    Navarro is a credit counselor for Money Management International, a non-profit financial counseling service. Navarro says once the Christmas shopping bills start backing up and the tax return is spent, people need help.

    "They are definitely vulnerable," says Manuel Navarro, "They're desperate. They're panicking."

    That's why the Better Business Bureau warns consumers looking for financial help to be cautious where you turn for help.

    "They can be vulnerable to someone who offers a quick fix," says Sheryl Bilbrey with the San Diego Better Business Bureau

    Bilbrey says improving your credit report and your credit score takes time, but credit counselors can be helpful.  "There are some services out there that will provide some good advice, but they shouldn't be guaranteeing a fast fix," says Bilbrey.

    Financial facts like late payments and overdrawn accounts can be on your credit report for as much as seven years, bankruptcy for 10 years. That sort of information can impact your credit score.  Consumers can get a free report every year from each of the three credit reporting agencies by going to www.annualcreditreport.com.  False or inaccurate information can be removed but must be challenged by the consumer.

    At the same time, there are companies that make claims that they can quickly improve your score, they often want to be paid upfront.

    "There are a lot of companies out there that are basically out to make money on their desperation," said Manuel Navarro.

    Sheryl Bilbrey agrees, "If they're asked to pay in advance, it's probably a scam."