Lauren Jackson and her husband turned to a Bossier City credit repair company for help as they worked to buy a home, but they say their experience should be a warning to others.
As they worked to clear old debts and rebuild their credit score, they sat down with TLC Credit Counseling/Repair. They signed a 90-day contract in November, allowing the company to act as a middleman with creditors.
The Jacksons ultimately gave the company nearly $1,500 over a three-month period. Lauren Jackson said she and her husband, Michael, believed TLC would use most of the money to pay off debts on their behalf. The couple agreed to pay TLC a $510 fee for its services. They made a down payment on the fee the day they signed their contract.
“We went in and paid $100 dollars. You have to make an upfront payment. And they encouraged us to do biweekly payments,” Jackson said.
Jackson said she saw some improvements in their credit but ultimately questioned just how TLC owner Jordan Chevalier was using the money the couple paid.
“In the process she (Chevalier) did have some medical debt removed. At that point I was like, there is no reason to freak out this is all going good,” Jackson said.
Things were looking up – but then things took a different turn, according to Jackson.
“We paid this Barksdale (credit union) account. It was supposed to be a $710.36 debt plus a $10 deletion fee,” she said.
Jackson gave that money to TLC. She said she thought the company was going to send a little more than $700 to Barksdale Federal Credit Union and that $10 was going to TLC for having the debt deleted from their credit.
But Jackson says that didn’t happen.
“I started reaching out and found out that (TLC owner Jordan Chevalier) had called Barksdale, but she never made a payment. The payment was never made. Not a little bit, not partial, nothing.”
Jackson says the same was true for another debt her husband owed to Kay Jewelers.
All of these payments were in addition to the $75 payments the couple made every two weeks towards that $510 fee.
TLC owner Jordan Chevalier denied the company was supposed to pay the Barksdale credit union and Kay Jewelers debts on behalf of the Jacksons.
“The only two that were supposed to be paid were GE Capital and Shreveport Endoscopy. The rest were supposed to be updated on their credit,” Chevalier said.
Was it a misunderstanding?
Jackson provided text messages, invoices and receipts referring to the Barksdale and Kay Jeweler debt payments. Chevalier discussed general details of the couple’s relationship with the company but didn’t provide invoices or documents about their payment history and how the company handled the money it received from them.
In a Dec. 1 text message, Jackson told Chevalier, “Just paid the invoice for your payment and for Barksdale.”
In another text on Dec. 18th, Chevalier told Jackson, “I’ll pay Shreveport Endoscopy and one of Michael’s bills.”
Jackson replied she wanted TLC to pay her husband Michael’s Kay Jewelers account.
Chevalier agreed to pay the debt – again via text — and sent Jackson a bill for more than $330. Of that, only $20 was supposed to go to TLC for getting the debt deleted from their credit.
But Chevalier says $1,200 of the $1,500 total the Jacksons paid is TLC’s fee for its services. Chevalier says TLC had thousands of dollars in debts forgiven from the Jacksons’ credit reports and raised their overall credit scores.
“And we are actually the least expensive in the ArkLaTex,” Chevalier said.
According to the Shreveport Better Business Bureau, two customers have filed complaints against TLC Credit Counseling/Repair since the company opened last spring. One was resolved. The other’s still pending.
The BBB gave TLC a B+ rating – the same rating it gives all credit repair companies. Andy Fisher, president of the Shreveport Better Business Bureau, said credit repair companies get that rating because they can’t guarantee their services.
“Most of them don’t do what they claim they’re going to do. You pay them the fee and then you’re out the fee,” Fisher said.
The federal Consumer Credit Protection Act spells out what credit counseling and repair companies can do. According to the act, companies that charge a “setup” fee or fees upfront violate those regulations.
Chevalier contends that the fees Jackson and other customers pay when they have an initial meeting with TLC aren’t upfront fees.
“You’re allowed to charge a fee for the work that you’re doing right then so that was the fee for the initial consultation,” Chevalier said.
The BBB says consumers who want to improve their credit can:
• Hire an attorney or use a credit repair company. Since services can’t be guaranteed, consumers need to know exactly what they’re getting.
• Make sure everything is in writing or documented and, more importantly, read your contract.
• Know exactly where your money is going and which creditors are or are not being paid.
• When money is being exchanged, you should get a detailed receipt and pay money only after a company or an attorney has completed some of the work, then pay as you go.