Memphis is known as the Bankruptcy capitol of the country...a reputation we've earned over the years... Many people see bankruptcy as a last ditch effort..some are even pushed to it by so called credit repair agencies. The cut up credit cards that fill this jar are an example of Mid-Southerners over their heads in debt. "Cut the cards up or put them up in a safe place," that's the advice from Jack Hogan with Consumer Credit Counseling service. From a few thousand to tens of thousands in debt, he's seen it all, "I've had individuals come in that have frozen theirs on a block of ice." Consumer Credit Counseling is a not for profit agency that charges a fee to negotiate with creditors to consolidate payments, lower interest rates and help you get a hold on debt. A service Ron Gray might have needed a few years ago, "When I was in college, freshman year there were plenty of credit card offers..kind of got a little deep into debt." Ron checked out several so called repair agencies but found they charged too much or didn't do much, "They were basically just contacting them directly, the same thing you can do, but they're charging you to do that. Which doesn't cost anything if you do it directly." The Federal Trade Commission is in the process of suing a company called AmeriDebt for what it calls unfair practices and misrepresenting itself. Jack Hogan, "Some of the agencies may say they're not for profit but they're actually backed by for profit companies, and they may have staggering fees and that's not gonna help them." Here's five ways to repair your credit without getting ripped off. 1-Avoid "free" credit report web sites...the report is free but the required membership will cost you. 2-Avoid consolidation offers. They can reflect negatively on your credit report especially if you have to get a new credit card to do it. 3-Companies that recommend you not contact a credit bureau directly are doing you no favors...it's your credit, you make the call. 4-Do not try to create a "new" identity... It's illegal. 5-Avoid Bankruptcy...at all costs..it should be a choice of last resort. In the end you may be better off solving your own debt problems like Ron, "Lowering the interest rate, setting up different payment options."