HOUSTON -

Many people feel financial stress in January, worried about paying their holiday gift bills and taxes. There are many ads popping up all around, promising to help turn a person's credit score around, but be very careful before signing up for one of those services.

Manuel Navarro, a credit counselor with Money Management International, said he worries about many people at the end of their financial rope.

"They're desperate, they're panicking because their situation is changing and it's something they hadn't gone through in the past," he said.

He said there are many people making wild promises to fix people's credit, for a price.

"There's a lot of companies out there that are basically out to make money on their desperation," Navarro said.

Credit repair takes time. The best place a person can start is by checking their credit report to make sure it's accurate. That's something that can be done for free by going to annualcreditreport.com.

If more help is needed after that, check with the Better Business Bureau for a credit counselor with a good rating. Banks and credit unions may also be able to make recommendations.

Experts said that companies asking for money upfront shouldn't be trusted and companies offering new Social Security numbers are asking you to commit fraud.