A lot has changed in the debt relief environment over the last couple years. Until October 2010, debt relief and settlement companies could charge you upfront fees. Fortunately, the FTC changed that by making upfront fees illegal.
However, that doesn't mean that debt relief scams no longer exist. The FTC upfront-fee ban doesn't apply to some debt settlement attorneys.
Why upfront fees were made illegal
One of the reasons the FTC made upfront fees illegal was due to their and individual state investigations of the debt settlement industry.
Per the investigations they discovered that less than 10% of consumers who hired a long-term debt settlement company completed the service by settling all of their enrolled debt.
With an upfront fee in place, that meant that 90% of people were potentially being charged for services they never received.
Since then, the debt relief industry has shrunk dramatically. A lot of the bad actors who took advantage of consumers are no longer operating. However, the industry still has a long way to go until it can be viewed as offering a successfully reliable approach as a whole.
How to get a refund
Just so you know, I have never charged upfront fees. And, I'm very happy the practice of doing so has been made illegal. However, as I mentioned earlier, some debt settlement attorneys still do.
If you hired a debt settlement company previous to October 27th 2010 or if you recently hired a debt settlement attorney that charged you upfront fees and you're not happy with your services and would like a refund, I recommend that you read Steve Rhode's article on how to get a refund.
He has done a great job explaining step-by-step on how to handle the situation and how to increase your chances of successfully getting your refund.
Steve's blog at getoutofdebt.org is also a great resource for other debt related information. There wasn't a class in high school or college that focused on consumer finance. I believe by reading his blog, you can help make up for that. Consumer awareness is so critical in this day and age. His debt relief blog is an excellent source to educate yourself and become more aware of your personal finance needs.