Dear Harry:

Almost every day, I receive an email from a company that insists that it can reduce or eliminate the interest on my credit-card debt. My first thought was: Why would anyone want to reduce part of my debt that I myself was responsible for? My wife and I are on Social Security. We have maxed out one credit card to the tune of $30,000 and another at $6,000. We have heavy co-pay on drug and dental bills, and we're just barely making it. We have just enough SS to keep us off assistance from food stamps, etc. Would our applying for this interest reduction affect our credit rating? It's always been very good. What do you suggest?

What Harry says: Any efforts (successful or not) to reduce a creditor's balance could be sent to the credit-reporting agencies. This would have an effect on your score. However, many of these companies that promise the sky are first-class scammers. First and foremost, do not pay anyone cash up front! Make certain that the company is legitimate. In this regard, the Senior Law Center (215-988-1244) can help. Your situation is one in which it might be possible to get your debt balances reduced, but it will hurt your score. However, with your limited income, you should try very hard to get out of hock and try very hard to stay out. Could your children possibly help?

Write Harry Gross c/o the Daily News, 400 N. Broad St., Philadelphia, PA 19130. Harry urges all his readers to give blood: Contact the American Red Cross at 1-800-Red Cross.