Despite the talk of scams, and there are scams, there are legitimate debt consolidation loans. To make sure the deal you are looking at is fair you need to know a few things.
Sadly, there is not a clear rule where I can tell you these companies are definitely what you want, but I can tell you what to look for in consolidation loans so you can feel confident you are getting a deal that will work for your situation.
The first thing you really want to do is talk to a credit counselor. You want to talk to them to see if this course of action is best for your situation and work over your financial plan with them. Often times when in debt people jump into deals too quickly, anxious to fix the problem, but a counselor will help you look out for your long term financial future. You can find a credit counselor at a local non profit organization.
Once you have a well thought out plan you want to find legitimate consolidation loans. These can be found both secured, with your home or car as collateral for a lower interest rate, or unsecured, with good credit. The first place to look are financial institutions you are already associated with, such as your bank or credit union. A credit union will generally be preferable as they will have lower interest rates.
Once you find some products you want to go over the terms carefully. You want to look for fees, maximum interest rates, prepayment penalties, and make sure you understand everything you are signing up for.
If employees on the phone seem to be reading from a script, you find out employees get commissions, or they won't answer your questions about the consolidation loans, go elsewhere! Also, a genuine lender will be approved by the Better Business Bureau, this is a minimum requirement.
Legitimate debt consolidation loans are out there, just make sure the loan will work for your plans.