If you are faced with bankruptcy and need to deal with a credit counselor, beware. Some are legit and some are just scam artists taking advantage of your weakness.
1. Face-to-Face Advice. Find someone you can see and talk to in person. You can get advice over the phone and on the Internet. The best place is to get a face-to-face result. You want the best advice possible. You can go to the local university, military, or local credit union. A list at US Department of Justice website of approved credit counselors would be my first start. Sit down face to face for the best results.
2. Beware of High Fees. If they have high fees, avoid them. Some of them are scam artists and are taking advantage. Look at their fee structure and get a written estimate of what the charges are going to be. If they turn you away because you can't afford their fees, then you are better off finding someone else as they aren't really in the business of being a credit counselor. Make sure they give you their fee structure before asking you for your personal information. Remember, non-profit doesn't mean its free to you.
3. Check their credentials. Are they certified or accredited? Ask if they are licensed with the state. Have they been trained? Ask. You are relying on their ability to get you out of your financial troubles. They should have some training on how to do this. How are they counselors paid? Do they get more money if they get you into a debt management plan? If they do, run.
4. Guard your private information. How are you going to protect my personal financial information? My debt, social security numbers, and all of my other financial information including all of my credit card numbers will be given to these people. Be sure they make steps that this information isn't leaked out. You'd hate it if you then became a victim of identity theft.
5. Watch out for debt management services. They pay your bills for you and charge you a pretty penny for it. They use your money. If you are filling under the new bankruptcy, you don't have to do this. Watch out for these agencies. The new law only requires a 90 minute credit counseling session within six months of filing and the other session is an educational session when you actually file.
I hope these tips help you find credit counseling to be an effective tool for you to use to help you straighten out your debts. The new bankruptcy laws changed a bunch of things, so contact an attorney if you have to file.