(WHTM) — Are debt relief services the real deal? Or are they too good to be true?

ABC 27’s investigation revealed that some debt relief offers are scams that could put you in even more debt.

AARP says these are the warning signs:

  • A debt relief company asking for fees up front, before it settles any debts
  • Guarantees that your debt can be eliminated or reduce by a certain time
  • Advising you to stop communication with creditors
  • Refusing to send you information about the debt relief company’s services unless you provide financial information

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How can you protect yourself? Make sure you do your homework.

See if complaints have been filed about the debt relief company with a state attorney general and consumer protection agency. All debt relief companies must explain all fees and conditions that go along with their services.

Never pay any fees in advance.

Be skeptical of any institution claiming that a “new government program” or change in local laws will reduce, forgive, or cancel student loan or credit card debt.

Another option is trying to negotiate directly with creditors or using a nonprofit credit counseling agency.

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If a company claims it can expunge negative information from your credit report, they are lying. The law requires delinquencies and defaults to stay on credit reports for a minimum of seven years.