Q: My husband and I are retired and due to a number of problems we have gotten into an insurmountable amount of debt. We are just about maxed out on all our credit cards and are borrowing from one of them to pay another one. I don’t know what is going to happen to us if we can’t get some relief.

Recently we have been receiving several telephone calls each week saying that there is a program that the federal government is supporting that can help people in debt to recover by lowering mortgage interest rates and cutting their payments in half. The government gets a fee for doing this.

We need this or something like it desperately but before we talk to one of their analysts, I need to know how to check if these calls are legitimate. We do not want to give all our credit and personal information to someone who is running a scam.

If you could give us some kind of an answer as soon as you can, we would be so grateful.

A: I’m sorry for your financial troubles, but this sounds like a total scam. It sounds to me like you need some time with the folks at Consumer Credit Counseling Services of Greater Atlanta. They will be able to tell you if your debt is insurmountable or just enormous (but can be paid off). They are also certified housing counselors, so they can help you figure out what programs might be able to offer some relief.

You might also get help by finding a certified housing counselor through the Department of Housing and Urban Development website (Hud.gov), or by calling 888-995-HOPE. Please call them and get the help you need.

One final thought: If you are so desperately in debt, it’s possible that you’ll never be able to pay your way out of it. In that case, bankruptcy may be a viable option. Please see a certified bankruptcy counselor (or the folks at CCCS may be able to guide you in that direction) for more details.