Getting debt help

Question: My daughter recently lost her job in Las Vegas, NV, had to vacate an apartment & will be unable to complete the lease. She forfeited her deposit, a month's rent and otherwise fulfilled all terms of the lease. She advised the manager immediately but has since moved to another state to find other employment. She has gotten a notice stating the matter is being turned over to a collection agency to pay the remainder of lease, about $3,500.00. In addition to this, she also has outstanding student loans and the bank representatives have refused to discuss a reasonable payment program, meanwhile the payment amounts are rapidly escalating due to interest.

Where can she go for help to guide her through the process of negotiating rather than allowing the situation to get worse & worse? She simply cannot meet these obligations and is down to bare essentials of living and whatever small amount of help I can provide. Thanks, Claire, Tallahassee, FL

Answer: That's a tough situation. She should steer clear of the outfits that advertise on the radio and cable saying they'll renegotiate your debts for a hefty fee. Too many of these outfits take advantage of people already down on their luck. It's hard to figure which ones are legitimate and which ones aren't.

I'm not sure where your daughter is living right now. But to get started she should go to the website of the National Foundation for Credit Counseling (NFCC). It's the largest national nonprofit credit counseling organization and their website is www.nfcc.org. It's a legitimate organization, and she should set up a consult with an office near where she is living. A number of the NFCC consumer credit counseling services offer credit and bankruptcy advice over the phone and the Internet, too, and she can learn which ones at the website. But I always think it's good to have at least an initial meeting face to face, especially with such a difficult, emotional topic.

If you would like to check out this possibility on your own for your daughter, there is the CCCS of Central Florida and the Florida Gulf Coast in Tallahassee.

About the author

Chris Farrell is the economics editor of Marketplace Money.

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