Tips how not to fall victim to debt relief offers

When your credit card bills and other debt get out of hand, debt relief promoters claim to have the answer: Stop making monthly payments to your creditors, stop speaking to the creditors and make one monthly payment to the debt relief company.

Debt relief schemers promise to negotiate with your creditors and get your debt reduced for an up-front fee. But evidence seized by federal inspectors reveals in many cases, not a penny is paid to creditors.

The Federal Trade Commission just shut down more debt relief and interest rate reduction operations, but not before the scammers got away with millions of dollars the victims will never get back.

So remember the Debt Relief warning signs: Big up-front fees, hidden monthly fees, guaranteed debt reduction and long-term contracts. If you need help getting out of debt, stick with a non-profit credit counseling service that will help you out for a nominal monthly fee with no surprises.

Many debt collection calls actually scams

Shady debt collectors are up to more dirty tricks: They're collecting debt you don't owe, and they're both aggressive and abusive. The Federal Trade Commission just nabbed two illegal robocall operations but not before they made off with more than $5 million of the victims' money. Before you talk to a debt collector, review your legal rights.