The Debt Settlement Protection Act of 2009 prohibits debt settlers from:

• Advising consumers to stop paying their creditors.

• Advising consumers that creditors can't contact them once they contract with a debt settler.

• Advising consumers that creditors can't sue them or garnish accounts or wages.

• Placing consumers in a settlement plan unsuitable for their financial situation.

• Misrepresenting the timing of any settlement negotiations with creditors.

• Charging excessive up-front fees. For example, the total amount of fees is capped at essentially 15 percent of the debt the consumer came in with. The companies have the potential to earn more if they save more for the consumer. Also, the timing of collection of the fees is capped to prevent too much being paid before services are rendered.

Source: Minnesota attorney general's office, Legal Services Advocacy Project