How to spot a credit repair ripoff

Memphis, Tenn. — Credit repair companies claim to help consumers quickly boost their credit score, but a News Channel 3 investigation found customers who claimed they made a costly mistake.

WREG also talked with experts who say there are simple ways to spot a credit repair ripoff.

The sign on the door at Satori Credit Solutions in Bartlett reads, ‘We do the work, you take the credit’.

It was that pitch of convenience, Prentice Fisher says, that convinced him to do business with the credit repair company.

“Oh we`re gonna clean your credit all the way up, you`re going to have 800 credit score,” said Fisher of the promises made.

However, a year and more than a $1,000 later, Fisher says what was supposed to be a credit repair, feels more like a ripoff.

WREG asked, “Did they raise your credit score?”

“No, they didn`t do anything.”

“Your credit score didn`t? They didn`t do…absolutely nothing,” replied Fisher.

Fisher paid Satori $1500 the month he signed up, plus another $37 a month for the next two months, for a required portal fee.

He said, “It went straight to the money, you know, you gotta pay up front, before we can do anything, if you pay quicker, it won`t take as long, of a process. We need at least half up front to even get started.”

A document titled ‘New Client CheckList’ shows customers should expect to get “results” slash a “new credit report” from the bureaus within 45 days.

Fisher told WREG, “Never saw nothing in the mail.”

WREG asked, “You never got anything from the credit bureaus?”

“Never got anything,” he replied.

So, Fisher canceled his contract.

“Time went by and I finally said last month, I`m getting my money back.”

After reaching out to News Channel 3, Fisher filed a complaint with state regulators.

Satori’s response included a check made out to Fisher for $1575, dated October 11th.

The company’s owner, Misam Abidi wrote in part in the response, “We will be mailing out a check …today as a matter of doing the right thing.”

However, when News Channel 3 spoke with Fisher in late October, he said he hadn’t received that check.

WREG visited Satori Credit Solutions, but instead of finding workers, we found other customers.

One woman said she was frustrated after not being able to get in touch with anyone.

“I`m here, they not here, when I call, I`m never getting an answer they say they`re going to have someone to call me back.”

The woman, who didn’t want to be identified, also said her credit score went in the opposite direction.

“It actually dropped 47 points down.”

She continued, “I`m hurt because that`s $1300 that I could have been paying on something else.”

Employee Elaf Abidi said, the owner, Misam Abidi was out of the country.

She reached him by phone and we scheduled an interview for the following week.

Abidi said he had no idea Fisher hadn’t received his refund.

“I`m going to immediately check, what happened to that check.”

And while he couldn’t point to exactly what happened in Fisher’s case, Abidi said they simply dropped the ball.

“Things sometimes happen. I am sorry. But that`s not who we are.”

Abidi pointed to positive comments on Satori’s Facebook page and Google reviews.

However, WREG found others, like one reviewer who said it felt like a “scheme…as soon as they started talking”.

WREG asked, “Do you all charge people up front.?”

Abidi responded, “We do not charge people anything at all for the credit repair aspect.”

“What are they paying for,” asked WREG?

“They are paying only for either attorney fees, or for consultative fees.”

Federal and state law bans credit repair companies from charging customers before providing services.

But, Fisher’s paperwork shows he paid $750 in “document fees” plus one portal fee before Satori started what it calls “Round One” of its work.

Abidi defended the practice.

“Services started the moment a client and I have sat down, and have looked and done research.”

In response to the other customer’s complaint, Abidi told WREG by email the office is by appointment only.

As far as any decrease in her credit score he said, “Her credit score went down because of new errors that she made on her credit file and or got reported inaccurately by a third party on her credit file.”

Read about consumers’ rights with the Credit Repair Organizations Act

Angelic Mister works with Operation Hope, a non-profit that provides budget and credit counseling for free. WREG spoke with Mister about credit repair services in general and potential scams.

She said, “Often times we have people who come to us after they`ve been victims of credit repair companies.”

She says signs of a credit repair scam include a requirement to pay up front and not getting a written contract, including a disclosure about consumers’ rights.

Mister explained, “They`re supposed to tell you that you can get your own credit report for free. So if they`re not telling you those type of things and leading you on to believe that this is a service that has to be paid for, that`s a big, a big, a big warning right there.”

How to Help Yourself: FTC says claims of credit repair are likely scams

Fisher says he’s rebuilding his credit the old fashioned way.

“Pay some things off, and keep working on it.”

In the meantime, he said, he wants to warn others.

WREG asked, “What do you wish you’d done differently?”

“Never went to them,” Fisher responded.

After our interview with Abidi, his company issued a new, refund check to Fisher, and Fisher confirmed receiving it.

WREG also asked state regulators if the company possibly violated the law with its fees and a spokesperson said they’re still reviewing the complaint for possible, next steps.

According to Satori’s website, it also operates an office in Atlanta. However, credit repair is banned in Georgia.

Abidi told WREG they don’t take any money out of that office and it’s set up for offering credit solutions, not credit repair.