You have to be very careful with debt relief programs. Some of them absolutely are scams, and they can significantly alter your financial future.
For example, one scam that was eventually uncovered had simply taken payments from people without ever doing anything to eliminate their debt. These people did not know this and thought they were out of debt. They assumed everything was taken care of.
You can imagine their surprise when their creditors came calling anyway, asking for the money they were legitimately owed. Meanwhile, they had spent what little they had on the scam. In the end, some of them even had no choice but to declare bankruptcy.
So, how do you know if you found a scam or a legitimate debt relief program? One key element is simply when they ask you to pay. A legitimate company will work with you and get rid of your debt first. A scam will tell you that you have to put money down up front. They may even say that they cannot start working on your case until they get these advance payments.
That is a serious red flag. It could mean that they're just going to take those payments and disappear, trying to profit off of your financial problems. You could wind up in a far more dire situation than you were in to begin with.
If you are struggling with debt, you do have options. There are solutions. You can find debt relief. Just make sure that you understand exactly how the legal process is supposed to work and how to pick a legitimate alternative.