Many companies advertise debt relief services, promising that you will save money on interest rates and find freedom from debt collectors. While some of these services are scams, some are legitimate but don’t always end up offering you the benefits you think you will receive.

Debt relief companies that deal in consolidation or settlements offer one of two paths to so-called debt relief. The first path involves consolidating your debt into a single monthly payment, usually by paying the company, who then turns around and makes your payments for you. Several potential problems come from this arrangement: you are paying a third-party, and you could be using the fees they take to further pay down debt. You also have to rely on that third party to pay your creditors appropriately, or you might end up with negative marks on your credit report and still owe the money.

Debt settlement is the act of negotiating with creditors to settle your debt for less than the current balance. This can cause problems on your credit report and increase your tax liability, since the Internal Revenue Service can tax you on forgiven debt amounts. You’ll also pay any company that handles the negotiation a fee.

One problem with both of these routes is that you can handle them yourself instead of paying a company to do it for you. If you can’t make either route work, then a company probably won’t have much more luck. This is when a third, and better, option might be worth considering. If you don’t have the money to pay your debts or negotiate appropriately with creditors, then you might want to speak with a legal professional about bankruptcy options.