Key takeaways

  • Consumers with hefty debt loads or lower credit scores are targets for debt relief and credit card scams.
  • If someone reaches out to you regarding your debt or requests upfront payment to find relief, it's likely a scam.
  • You can protect yourself from scams by educating yourself on laws telemarketers must adhere to and by doing your research to find legitimate debt relief options.
  • Be sure to consult with a qualified credit counselor or a reputable debt relief company if you need assistance managing your debts.

If you are struggling to pay off debts such as credit card debt, auto loans or student loans, you may be looking for ways to lower your debt. If so, you’re not alone. Total household debt in the U.S. rose to $17.06 trillion in the second quarter of 2023. Yet, it’s important to be careful when you receive enticing debt relief offers from solicitors.

Debt relief and credit scammers target individuals with large amounts of debt or low credit scores. Signing up for a debt relief service without doing your research can lead to more money lost and an even worse credit score if you’re not careful.

When you are looking for help managing debt, talk to a qualified credit counselor. Know the signs of a credit scam and research any debt relief company before you start working with them.

What debt relief and credit scams look like

Managing debt can feel overwhelming, and you are likely on the search for any way to lower your debt. But, it’s important to know about common debt relief and credit scams so you can spot them when they come to you.

You may be the recipient of a credit scam if they reach out to you first. Scammers may send you an email or text or call you. They take advantage of your desire for a convenient solution to debt in order to get your attention. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) enforces the Telemarketing Sales Rule which requires telemarketers to follow certain rules. If you feel like they might not be following these legal regulations, reach out to the FTC.

Debt relief and credit scams also usually require payment upfront. A legitimate debt relief company will only collect payment from you once they are able to help you. When a company asks you for a large payment upfront, proceed with caution. There are no guarantees that debt can be lowered, so you should avoid any companies that guarantee a credit score improvement or debt settlement.

How to keep yourself safe from scams

What can you do to stay safe from credit and debt relief scams? Follow these tips:

  • Know the law. The FTC regulates things telemarketers can and cannot do. If you know the regulations, you can recognize when something seems off. Familiarize yourself with the Telemarketing Sales Rule, which only allows calls during certain hours and requires solicitors to stop calling you if you ask.
  • Do your homework. If you do need help with your credit or managing your debt, research reputable companies and credit counselors. Check the Better Business Bureau (BBB) to determine if a company is a scam or the real thing.
  • Consider all the options. Managing a high amount of debt is tricky, but there are multiple ways to improve your situation. Look into all of your options. Consider talking to a credit counselor, consolidating your debt or working with a legitimate debt settlement company.
  • Avoid upfront fees. A good debt settlement company won’t make you pay upfront. They will only charge you if they end up helping you with your debt. Don’t sign up for any service that requires any upfront fees.

Legitimate debt relief companies

There are a lot of debt relief companies, but they aren’t all good. Here are some options for the best debt relief companies.

Accredited Debt Relief

Unlike credit and debt relief scammers, Accredited Debt Relief commits to honesty and integrity. Once you use their free consultation services, the Accredited Debt Relief team will let you know the best plan options for your situation. On average, clients save as much as 45 percent on debts enrolled in the program.


Claiming to have counseled over 300,000 individuals since 2000, CuraDebt works with all kinds of debt to help with debt negotiation, debt settlement and tax debt relief. They also have licensed attorneys on their team that can be consulted on your case as needed at no extra cost to you.

Freedom Debt Relief

Freedom Debt Relief works hard to help its clients find freedom from credit card debt. They work to get you the maximum amount of savings possible, and they let you know each time one of your debts has been settled.

National Debt Relief

National Debt Relief is one of the top debt settlement agencies in the country. The company has an A+ rating from the BBB, so you can rest easy knowing you are in good hands. Customers have access to a free consultation before signing up for a debt settlement plan with the company.

New Era Debt Solutions

Unlike debt relief scammers, New Era Debt Solutions doesn’t have any upfront fees. They promise to help customers get out of debt faster while paying only one low monthly fee. They also have an A+ rating from the BBB and 4.9 out of 5 stars on Google.

Bottom line

Managing a lot of debt and a poor credit score takes a lot of work, but you don’t want to fall into a scam just because you are desperate. If someone reaches out to you with a deal that sounds too good to be true, it probably is. To find a trustworthy debt settlement company, research them through the BBB and FTC.