Student loans are almost impossible to discharge in bankruptcy. Nonetheless, debt settlement companies, which offer to help borrowers lower their monthly loan payments for a hefty upfront fee, have long been fraught with problems, as federal and state regulators are spotting new instances of abuse as the companies shift away from their traditional targets — credit card and mortgage debt — to zero in on student loans, the New York Times reported today. Illinois today is expected to become the first state to bring legal action against debt settlement companies in connection with their student loan practices, contending in two separate lawsuits that Broadsword Student Advantage and First American Tax Defense duped vulnerable borrowers into paying for help that never arrived. In her suit against the companies and their operators, Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan contends that the businesses lured borrowers into paying hundreds of dollars upfront, and in the case of Broadsword, $49.99 a month after that, according to copies of the lawsuits. The companies often misled customers about those fees, according to the suits, and in some instances feigned affiliation with federal relief programs. Read the full story here.