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Beware of shady companies promising debt relief

I love AM radio. Have you heard AM 1400 Solid Gold Soul? Amazing.

But sometimes when I’m scanning the stations, I hear ads from those shady companies promising to help customers get out of debt and I want to jump through and strangle someone.

Those companies, which portray themselves as legitimate sources of help, actually prey on desperate people, charging them thousands of dollars for services that don’t solve their problems.

People in bad financial situations often turn to predatory or fraudulent sources for help – payday lenders, check-cashing services and companies that promise to restructure debt.

If you’re struggling with money, Consumer Credit Counseling Service of Buffalo is where you should look for the real help you need, including free, one-on-one financial counseling and debt management services. Now is a perfect time to reach out – before you get your tax refund. They can show you how to use that chunk of change to take control of your finances and turn things around.

When you go, you’ll sit with a nationally certified financial counselor who will help you figure out your best course of action.

They will:

• Examine your monthly income and expenses

• Pull your credit report and credit score and analyze both

• Take stock of all your so-called “unsecured debts,” such as credit cards, collections accounts, collection judgments, medical bills and finance company loans, and go over your best repayment options.

• Write a summary of what you’ve got going on financially, listing all of the action steps you’ll take to start blasting away debt and rebuilding your money situation.

• Pair you with resources that will help you make it all happen.

If you’re in debt – and 80 percent of Americans are – CCCS can draw up a customized debt management plan. The plan has tons of benefits. It will:

• Get you lower monthly payments

• Bring down your interest rates

• Have late fees and overdraft charges waived

• Put an end to debt collection phone calls

• Give you one monthly payment instead of several different ones

• Get you out of debt within five years or less.

Basically, they do what those sketchy radio commercials promise to do, but CCCS actually delivers.

They have a ton of other specialty programs, too, like student loan counseling, budgeting, prepurchase home counseling, mortgage delinquency counseling and credit review.

Their main office is at 40 Gardenville Parkway, suite 300 in West Seneca. But they have a bunch of different satellite locations to make it easier for you to meet up.

• Family and Children’s Services, 1522 Main St. in Niagara Falls.

• The Dale Association, 33 Ontario St. in Lockport.

• Evans Bank, 2800 Niagara Falls Boulevard in Tonawanda.

• M&T Bank, 750 Main St. in Niagara Falls.

• Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church, 1525 Michigan Ave. in Buffalo.

• Key Bank, 306 West Ferry St. in Buffalo.

To make an appointment, or for more information, call 712-2060 or visit

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