Ravell Call, Deseret News
Howard Curth works in his office in Farmington, Monday, Aug. 22, 2011. He entered into a debt settlement agreement where the fees exceeded the benefits provided.

While many debt settlement companies admit their solutions only work for about one-third of customers, official federal estimates put the success rate at 10 percent, according to the National Association of Consumer Bankruptcy Attorneys.

“Based on what bankruptcy attorneys are seeing across the nation, we believe that debt settlement schemes are the number one problem facing America’s most deeply indebted consumers today,” Ed Boltz, the soon-to-be NACBA president, said in the study.

More than 500,000 Americans are signed up for debt settlement programs, which make for $15 billion in debt, while about 12.5 percent households owe at least $10,000 in debt.

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The Better Business Bureau has labeled debt settlement an “inherently problematic business,” according to the report.

Since creditors don’t negotiate a reduced settlement with clients who are making payments, settlement companies often tell customers to default on their loans, leading to fines, penalties, increased interest rates and possible wage garnishment.

The NACBA advises against using debt settlement firms who have high monthly service fees, indicate that you aren’t likely to get sued by your creditors or say they can remove bad history from your credit report.

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