CHICAGO — The multi-billion-dollar credit repair industry is largely unregulated. However, WGN Investigates found a local nonprofit that believes that should change.
In Illinois, legislation is being drafted to address what some believe are the industry’s shortcomings. In exchange for an upfront payment and recurring monthly fee, some firms promise to boost a person’s credit score. But that bump may not last and customers keep paying.
“I would say [credit repair companies] market most aggressively in communities of color where there is a lack of trust in financial institutions and credit system,” Ricki Lowitz, co-CEO of Working Credit, a Chicago-based nonprofit, said.
Take Mary Joyce Nunn, for example. The West Side resident needed a car but had a low credit score. For some people, that can prevent them from obtaining housing and employment. In Nunn’s case, it meant she couldn’t obtain a loan to buy the car she needed. So, she sought the help of a local credit repair company.
In all, she paid the firm more than $2,000. But she says her credit score barely moved. Lowitz says Nunn’s experience is not unique.
“I think sometimes we have to pay for lessons but, man, that was an expensive lesson that I had to pay for,” Nunn said.
In Illinois, there’s been a push to hold some credit repair firms more accountable.
The Illinois Attorney General’s office sued one firm, for example, for allegedly charging “unlawful upfront fees” and “misrepresenting the cost if its services.”
But Lowitz and other consumer advocates believe more can be done.
Her group is among those working to introduce legislation that would allow consumers to hold off paying a credit repair company until it “provides proof that an item came off and stayed off [a person’s credit report] for six months.”
WGN Investigates reached out to the credit repair company Nunn hired. They declined comment for this story.