Have you seen those ads being run by the debt-settlement outfits on late-night TV? They promise to reduce your credit card debt to just pennies on the dollar without making you file for bankruptcy.

However, that promise is an illusion. Here's the scoop: You usually pay an upfront fee to the debt-settlement firm, plus a monthly retainer. Their strategy is to get you to stop paying on your bills and make the credit card companies so desperate that they'll settle with you. The reality, however, is that you just wind up damaging your credit.

In the worst-case scenario, some people complain that the more unsavory players in the debt-settlement business will take your money upfront and then put you on ignore when you try to initiate further contact with them. Beware!

It's so easy to want to believe that they have the magic bullet to solve all your problems. But that's simply not the case.

So what do you do? Visit NFCC.org to find a local affiliate of the National Foundation for Credit Counseling. They can advise you about budgeting, which will help about one in three people. Beyond simple budgeting, there are also other techniques they may suggest based on your individual circumstances. Get in touch today!

Image of Clark Howard About the author: Clark Howard

Clark Howard is a consumer expert whose goal is to help you keep more of the money you make. His national radio show and website show you ways to put more money in your pocket, with advice you can trust. View More Articles

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