Do I have to look for a reliable association of debt settlement companies to get help?
First, check whether or not a company is registered with the Better Business Bureau (BBB). If not, then be careful. The company should not charge any upfront fee. It's another important parameter to verify the reliability of a debt settlement company. Remember, as per the FTC laws, a debt settlement company cannot charge an upfront fee from its customers. Last but not the least, check online reviews, and whether or not a debt settlement company is following the FTC laws.
Along with following what Phil has said, to look for a reliable association of debt settlement companies, you can take referrals from your family and friends. You can approach a settlement company which has been able to settle your friend's debt successfully.