To put it simply... YES!
Now, there are exceptions and there are a few non-profit debt counseling programs out there that try and do things the right way. However, you'll most likely never find those places when looking for a legitimate debt consolidation option.
The vast majority of "debt consolidation" or "debt relief" or "debt consolidation loan" entities are simply for-profit, private companies that spend millions each year in marketing to try and convince you to not file for bankruptcy and pay them instead. Let's take a look at an example of how many of these companies work:
It's important to understand that you are NOT getting a loan from these businesses that can be used for paying off debt. You do NOT actually get to consolidate credit card debt with them. They put you on a monthly payment plan and tell you they will negotiate with your creditors on your behalf. Your creditors (credit cards, medical bills, etc.) do not get paid off when you start the program!
While you are making monthly payments to the "debt consolidation" company you are no longer paying your actual creditors and you have no legal protection from them. Eventually, the creditors will come after you and sue you and garnish your wages or place liens on your assets.
The "debt consolidation" company tells you that they are trying to settle out with your creditors and that's why you are making the monthly payments. However, every month they are charging you a "service fee" and that is typically where the majority of the money you pay goes... to the "debt consolidation" company and not to your creditors.
Eventually, you figure it out... "Hey, I'm being scammed here." You call the "debt consolidation" company and tell them to stop taking money out of your account and to send your money back. What do you think happens next?
They typically don't return your money. Remember, it went to pay their "service fees." They often will continue to charge your bank after you've instructed them not to and you end up having to close that account.
Now, this sounds highly illegal or at the very least unethical. What recourse do you have against them? They operate out of state. They only have a PO Box and it's almost impossible to track them down. Good luck.
By this point, you've wasted a lot of time and thousands of dollars on this "debt consolidation" program. Your real creditors have racked up interest, late fees, attorney fees, court costs and are in the process of collecting from you (via court judgment, wage garnishment, liens, etc.).
Please explain to me how that helped you?
Eventually, you realize your only option now is bankruptcy and that you should have done it a while back (before you wasted precious time and money with this whole "debt consolidation" circus).
If you are considering paying one of these online "debt consolidation" programs, PLEASE DO THIS:
Contact a real bank or credit union and see if you can get a loan to truly consolidate your debt (at a lower interest rate) and pay off your existing creditors. The unfortunate reality is that by the time most people do this they are now a much greater credit risk and the bank/credit union is unlikely to offer a loan.
If you can't get a loan, contact a high quality bankruptcy attorney to find out what your other options are. You can reach me with any questions through our CONTACT PAGE.