By Michael RupuredUniversity of Georgia All you have to do is turn on the nearest television or radio tohear advertisements targeted to people who have bad credit or toomuch debt. The thing to remember is that each of these agenciesis providing a service to make a profit, not to help you get outof debt. These companies offer to provide a range of goods and services,from copies of your credit report to relief from creditors. Someof them even offer to fix your credit report altogether. It’swise to know which are legitimate offers because when it comes toyour credit, there are plenty of offers out there that aren’t. One payment, but higher interestOne service that you hear a lot about is debt consolidation. Somecompanies that frequently advertise themselves as creditassistance agencies are in truth debt consolidation lenders.Instead of helping you develop a payment plan to get out of debt,they encourage you to take out another loan, which will pay offall of your credit card balances. The sales pitch usually emphasizes that instead of making a lotof payments to a lot of creditors, you’ll have only one monthlypayment to make. However, the sales pitch does not tell you thatyou’ll usually pay a very high interest rate (not to mentionmiscellaneous fees) for this kind of loan. It also doesn’t tellyou how much longer you’ll stay in debt – typically, at leastfive years.But don’t despair. It is possible to get a good deal on aconsolidation loan, especially if you own your home. Mostfinancial institutions offer home equity loans, in which youborrow against the equity you have in your house. The advantageto a home equity loan is that the interest is tax deductiblewhich is not the case with credit card debt. Don’t trade unsecured debt for secured debtHowever, the risk of borrowing against your home equity isthat you’re tradingunsecured debt (credit cards) for secured debt, which is subjectto foreclosure or repossession. If your circumstances change andyou can’t pay, you could lose your home.In addition, many people do not have the discipline to stop usingtheir credit cards once they’re paid off. This means that inaddition to having a debt consolidation loan balance to repay(regardless of what type of loan it is), without discipline, youcould go out and run up your credit card balances all over again. If you truly want to get out of debt, it’s probably best to leavedebt consolidation loans alone. If borrowing is your problem,borrowing more isn’t the solution!