Debt settlement scams are the leading threat that indebted Americans face, according to the National Association of Consumer Bankruptcy Attorneys (NACBA). Only about one in 10 consumers who enroll in debt settlement plans are actually rid of the debt in the promised time frame. Struggling consumers may be easy targets for scams. “People pay $6,000 to $8,000 to these companies before they get any results,” says NACBA's Ed Boltz. “By the time they realize, they are deeper in debt, and their credit’s ruined.” Consumers can avoid most scams by shunning companies that request fees up front. Debtors with a little extra cash on hand could try to negotiate with creditors directly to reduce debt. Information available on the Internet can probably reveal whether a company has been fined, recently went through a large settlement, or has a bad rating with the Better Business Bureau. A local attorney or government-approved nonprofit credit counseling agency also may be able to help determine debt settlement options.