Credit-Repair Figure Has His Own Money History
An exclusive NewsChannel 5 investigation reveals who is behind some of those claims to improve your credit.
You've probably driven by some of those signs posted around town which promise to raise your credit score -- for a price.
Brenda Bell saw one of those signs.
"I pay all my bills on time, but right now I'm in a financial bind. I don't have a job right now," she said.
Last year, she tried one those credit-repair companies.
"They said some things that were on my credit report - they were going to take them off," Bell said.
She contacted Hargrave and Associates. They charged her $250 and promised to improve her credit score in six months, but she said her score never changed.
Shortly after Bell's problems, the Federal Trade Commission shut down Hargrave and Associates. NewsChannel 5 Investigates discovered that, days later, a new company appeared with ties to the same owner, Kevin Hargrave.
The new company, BFS Credit, now has signs all over Nashville. BFS Credit is based in Florida. Officials say it's not operating legally in Tennessee because it hasn't posted a required bond.
NewsChannel 5 Investigates discovered Kevin Hargrave has credit problems of his own. He has been arrested at least five times for writing bad checks.
So we called the number on one of those signs and asked to speak with Kevin Hargrave.
He denied he needed a bond in Tennessee -- something the state says is not true. He then explained his company can only remove errors on people's credit report.
We asked if was misleading to claim they could improve people's credit score and charge people a monthly fee.
Hargrave said, "No, it's not. No, it's not. When you call that number we explain to you how you can do that."
The cost is $199 for an enrollment fee and then $50 dollars a month, but there are no guarantees.
Hargrave told us, "You can challenge something and it might not come off at all. That's not what we're paid to do. We're only doing for people what they can do for themselves."
Kathleen Calligan of the Better Business Bureau said the economy has people willing try anything.
Experts say credit-repair companies can't deliver on their promise.
"Can you pay someone a couple of hundred dollars to erase your bad credit? No. It is the most misleading and untruthful ad we have out there today," Calligan said.
Brenda Bell learned her lesson. She recommends that people steer clear of the trap she fell into.
"If you want to improve your credit you have to do it on your own," Bell said
Kevin Hargrave insisted he's learned from his past mistakes. He said his check writing problems are now behind him.
The bottom line is to be careful with these businesses and remember that anyone can challenge items on their credit report.
But if negative items are true, they are not coming off your report.