In this economy, it seems like you can’t turn on the radio or TV for any extended period of time without hearing commercials for debt settlement or debt consolidation services. Same holds true while surfing the web. Now whether or not these services are even the right choice is a whole other topic (we will tackle that in a bit). Right now, let’s just discuss Christian debt settlement companies and how they compare to the other guys. Typical Christian Debt Consolidation Encounter Your typical encounter with one may go something like this… 1. You do a search Even a general search for something like “debt consolidation” or “debt settlement” may show ads geared towards Christians. However if you throw the word “Christian” in there, then it’s almost guaranteed you will see several of these companies at the top. The organic results will also be similar. Here’s an actual example of a search I did, with the company names and URLs blocked out: If you want help with your debt according to biblical principles, results such as these sound like they might be promising, right? Note: The examples I discuss below are not the same websites/companies pictured above. This is intentional, in order to protect Bob from being bullied by a specific company (that’s why I’m keeping every example in this article anonymous). 2. You click on one. So you go ahead and click on whichever one you fancy. When you do that, here’s what you usually [but not always] will encounter: From an advertised site – If you click on one of the sponsored results, you are usually taken to a one-page pitch for the service. This typically consists of a form for submitting your contact info, along with some basic information and bullet points to convince you to get a “risk-free no obligation quote.” Other than having the word “Christian” once or twice on the page, along with an image of a dove or brief piece of scripture, there may be little to no mention of what makes them different from others in the field. From a natural ranking – The naturally ranked websites near the top tend to have more beef. By that, I mean more text describing how debt consolidation works. There may be more religious emphasis intertwined – but ironically – sometimes the more that is said, the worse it can sound. For example with one company, the homepage featured this verse: I tell you the truth, this poor widow has put in more than all the others. All these people gave their gifts out of their wealth; but she out of her poverty put in all she had to live on. Somehow, the site was trying to connect that verse to the path of living debt free. Using it in that context just doesn’t make sense; we all know what that verse is in reference to and it has nothing to do with debt. Worse yet, they cited it as being Matthew 21:1-4 (that story is in Luke 21:1-4 and Mark 12:41-44). 3. You contact one. Perhaps you submit your information via the contact form or you call the 800 number. Either way, you will be in touch with someone to discuss your circumstances. While I don’t have any personal experience with debt negotiation myself – for the purpose of writing this – I tried checking with a few self-proclaimed Christian services to find out what differentiates them. Each time, I hit a dead-end road. Are They Really Christian? Rather than answering that question myself, I will let you decide. However there’s no denying that a number of the debt help websites out there which market themselves as “Christian” are at the very least being misleading, to put it nicely. By researching websites’ WhoIs data, mailing addresses, business entity records and more, I came across companies which merely were operating a multitude of different sites, each geared towards a specific demographic. For example, in addition to their so-called Christian site, the same company might have a similar debt help site for general audiences, one for people living in Michigan, one for credit card debt, one for hospital debt, and so on. While it’s true every business is bound to have some unhappy customers, do a Google search for reviews of Christian debt consolidation companies and some of the alleged pattern complaints regarding some companies are alarming, to say the least. Many companies in this field (Christian or otherwise) operate as non-profit entities for tax purposes and probably marketing cachet. This in and of itself doesn’t necessarily mean that company is ethical. Just like how the president of an unscrupulous charity can legally take home a monster paycheck, the same holds true for these companies, too. Furthermore this article by a practicing attorney and former judge claims that “a debt settlement company NPO is a “perversion” of legitimate NPOs.” What Should You Do? Although the troubling traits I’ve discussed appear to be common in this industry, that’s not to say there aren’t exceptions. There may very well be legitimate and respectable Christian-focused assistance out there to help you with your debt problems. The purpose of this article is not to make a blanket statement. Rather, my goal is to demonstrate that there are snakes in the grass, playing the Jesus card to get your money. As a Christian, you need to be wary and do your research. Now going back to what I said at the start… are you sure settlement or consolidation is even the right choice for you? Bob has some excellent articles up which I would recommend you check out first: Is Debt Consolidation a Good Idea? Bankruptcy And The Bible (also discusses debt consolidation) How To Get Out of Debt (7 part series) This article is a guest post by Michael – a financial blogger by accident. He started Credit Card Forum in 2008 as a hobby, but after getting laid off, it morphed into his full-time job. While most of his time is spent obsessing over credit card rewards, he does love to surf whenever he gets the chance (and living in SoCal helps make that possible). You can read more about him here and find him on Twitter and Facebook . Debt stress image from Shutterstock Related Articles: Is Debt Consolidation a good idea? How to negotiate with credit card companies – GS5 Debt Reduction Carnival Resources and ways to cut your debt load This article was written by a Guest Author. If you would like to write a guest post for our personal finance blog , you can find out how here .