Your Questions During the Financial Crisis

Answer: A.S., too, could benefit from credit counseling. Here's how it works: you go to Consumer Credit Counseling Service with copies of all your bills. The counselor talks to you about the choices you've made and educates you about how this affects your credit and how to do better, if possible.

CCCS often tells people to cut up all their credit cards, so brace yourself for some culture shock. (Many CCCS centers have a giant vase in their front lobby full of shredded client credit cards.) Then, CCCS contacts your creditors and negotiates new payment plans for you. You send a lump sum to CCCS each month and CCCS forwards it to the companies. One note: renegotiating your bills through a credit counselor does show up on your credit report and may lower your credit score, so if you think you have the stomach for self-help, consider it. Most people are overwhelmed and need a calm, cool outsider to guide them out of the money pit.

Question: I have heard on news stories that there are agencies to help people who have gotten behind on mortgages, that are free. Before things spiral totally out of control, I need to contact one of these agencies. Your help in pointing me in the right direction would be greatly appreciated.

-- RR, Holly, Mich.

Answer: The Department of Housing and Urban Development provides this great interactive map where you can click on your state and get a list of low or no-cost housing counselors in your state. The key is to go with a nonprofit housing counselor who you seek out, rather than a for-profit con man who approaches you. So, please, click here for the HUD list and read my column from last week for more information for those facing foreclosure.

Question: You posted some time ago a list of legitimate companies that pay people to work from home. Would you please send me the list, as I recall it was only a few companies. Thanks so much for your time and help in this matter.

-- J.S., San Antonio, Texas

Answer: Actually, I mostly do stories about where not to turn for help and have written in the past about work-at-home scams in which you pay money up front and get nothing. But my colleague, Tory Johnson, has researched legitimate work at home opportunities and recommends the following links as places to look.

Question: I believe it was you on "GMA" telling us how to save on small things. One of them you mentioned was doing away with our landline phone and using our computer in some way. Could you give me who/what to contact for more information? Thank You.

-- B.J., Ashland, Ohio

Answer: In these tricky economic times, folks are looking for creative ways to save any way they can. One idea that I have mentioned on the air in the past is computer calling, where you attach a headset to your computer and talk over the computer instead of a traditional phone line. (This is different from Internet calling where you have a regular telephone but the signal is transmitted over your cable modem.)

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