The Checkout

If You Need Help, You're Not Alone

Nancy Trejos

In another sign of how much consumers are hurting these days, more and more of them are turning to credit counselors for help.

The National Foundation for Credit Counseling (NFCC), the largest national nonprofit credit counseling organization, reports that the number of calls to its National Locator Line, which automatically connects consumers with counselors, has set new records each week. In October, calls were up 70 percent over the same month in 2007. Year-to-date, the number of calls is up 31 percent over the same period last year.

Meanwhile, year-to-date visits to the organization's Web sites through Oct. 31 are up almost 30 percent over the same time frame last year. That translates into an increase of 494,786 visitors.

The number of consumers taking the NFCC's Mortgage Reality CheckSM, a self-assessment exam to determine one's risk of foreclosure, is up by 33 percent year-to-date. Those indicating imminent risk of foreclosure are up to 85 percent compared with an average of 70 percent at the end of 2007. Requests for housing counseling are up by 63 percent year over year.

To meet the demand, the organization has increased the number of credit counselors by 10 percent, or almost 2,600. It has also increased the number of housing counselors by 25 percent, or more than 1,600.

"Arguably, we're living in the worst economic times of our lifetime. Consumers are smart to reach out for help, and doing so sooner rather than later is always preferable. Whatever your financial problem may be, you do not have to go through it alone," said Gail Cunningham, spokesperson for the NFCC.

To reach the NFCC Member Agency closest to you, dial (800) 388-2227. For a Spanish speaking counselor, call (800) 682-9832. And for information online, go to www.DebtAdvice.org.

By Nancy Trejos |  November 20, 2008; 1:15 AM ET Economy Watch , Nancy Trejos
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