For consumers seeking debt relief in Wisconsin, Green Bay’s WFRV-TV and warns state residents about doing business with fly-by-night debt consolidation companies, many of whom advertise heavily in the media. Complaints to state and local government regulators about these firms–who sometimes take the money and run–are apparently on the increase.

The Wisconsin Better Business Bureau says that some of the companies promising to settle mortgage, credit card debt, or other bills are legitimate, but consumers need to be wary of certain red flags. For example, never pay large upfront fees to the debt consolidator; instead, use that money to pay off the underlying debt. Also, it may be more effective for the consumer to negotiate directly with the creditor to set up a reasonable payment plan rather than pay an intermediary to do so. A Better Business Bureau official also suggested that consumers stay skeptical of any broad guarantee by a debt consolidation company along the lines of eliminating 40 to 70 percent of the outstanding debt.

Every Wisconsin debt consolidator must obtain a license from the state Department of Financial Institutions. Any consumer who wants to research a debt consolidation company can access the Department’s records as well as checking with the Better Business Bureau for a complaint history, if any.

Another option for the consumer is to meet with a skilled and experienced bankruptcy attorney in Milwaukee to review your balance sheet. An individual bankruptcy in Wisconsin could be best approach in difficult circumstances. A Wisconsin bankruptcy lawyer is subject to strict ethical rules, including putting the best interests of the client at the top of the priority list. Rather than getting mixed up with an iffy-at-best debt consolidation company, seeking counsel from a professional debt consolidation lawyer can be a better alternative. Your lawyer can present with authority a financial framework for going forward that may or may not include a personal bankruptcy in Milwaukee or in the surrounding area.