Fake news has been confusing and manipulating consumers for quite some time. All businesses and people can be victims of fake news. Typically, fake news has a specific and malicious agenda, and is spread by a disreputable company or person to impugn an honest competitor. These wholly un-vetted and unverified stories are spread easily, and it’s often impossible to track down their actual sources and hold them accountable. Seemingly independent bloggers are sometimes the worst offenders in the world of fake news, because they have a separate incentive to manufacture and spread misinformation—to generate click-bait. Even a company such as Today’s Credit Solutions can be targeted by fabricated news, such as the following purported report:

https://www.marketplace.org/2009/03/27/world/quick-fix-credit-scams

Here is a breakdown of this article, with our comments appearing in red after various sections:

Tess Vigeland

Last week we told you about all the scams proliferating online, on TV and everywhere else, promising to lower your property tax bill or help you avoid foreclosure. This week, the companies that claim they can clean up your credit. Sally Herships finds out why people are believing what they hear in those ubiquitous ads and what they end up getting.

Sally Herships (blogger)

Beverly White is 58. She’s divorced. Lives in Charlotte. She’s a behavioral specialist with teen girls. She was renting a townhouse, but wanted to buy a house.

Beverly White

My goal was to own a home — something I could show I had accomplished in my years of living.

But her credit rating was way too low to qualify for a mortgage. She had unpaid medical bills and other debt. Her FICO score was somewhere in the 400 to 500 range, or about 200 points less then what she needed. Then her real estate agent said he knew someone who could help. This guy could clean up Beverly’s credit history. That was around August.

White

He guaranteed that by December my credit would be cleared and things would be OK and I would be able to then apply for my home.

You know where this is going right? December rolls around and Beverly’s credit report: untouched. And the guy she paid 1,400 bucks to up front, isn’t returning her calls. She’s been scammed. The Federal Trade Commission says complaints about credit repair scams went up 50 percent last year. Tom Bartholomy is president of the Better Business Bureau in Charlotte. He says asking for money in advance of service is one way to recognize a scam — it’s illegal.

Tom Bartholomy

They make these promises, they make these guarantees and that’s what entices people to come across with the upfront fee.

But Bartholomy says scammers make claims people cannot resist.

Bartholomy

If you have a foreclosure on your credit history, they’ll get that erased. If you have a bankruptcy on your history, if you have repossessions on your credit history, they’ll have that erased. Those can’t happen. It just cannot happen.

No matter how bad, how late, how scary items on your credit history may seem, if they’re correct, Bartholomy says there’s no way to erase them. Bad debts have to cycle off. And that takes time — up to seven years. And scammers know people don’t want to wait.

Today’s Credit Solutions (TCS)

Here the author tries to tie TCS to claims we don’t’ make, and to people we have never worked or been in contact with (Beverly White).

Let the record show; before, during, and after communication with Herships we clearly stated our intent in helping her educate consumers and offered to provide Herships with process flow regulations, market trends, and verified examples from clients who gave TCS permission to share their exact experiences with a third party.  Herships declined stating “It wouldn’t be ethical for me to use this type of information”.  

Ms. White is most likely a fiction the blogger (Sally Herships) made up whole cloth to meet her deadline. The key to understanding the Better Business Bureau representative’s statement is in his use of the terms “error” and   “correct” (or accurate). Generally speaking, it’s very difficult to remove accurate negative information from credit reports (most removals must be tied to a bank or creditor error), and credit services corporations are not allowed to guarantee up front to clients that they will do so.  There are only a few instances in which correct information might be amended. For example, in some instances when a consumer’s address wasn’t verified properly, and that consumer never received proper notice of a bill that then goes unpaid, we can remove otherwise accurate notations of late payments or collections.

While these fake news mills are churning out articles that make no sense, TCS is solving problems, and eliminating headaches and market confusion in a $5 Trillion+ industry.  All our claims have been proven by our corporate record, verified client success, corporate partnerships, and through our innovative trademark formula—REMOVE + BUILD + SETTLE = CREDIT MAXIMIZATION— the first credit improvement formula in history.

MY CREDIT NEEDS REPAIR.COM

Denied, denied, denied. Are you trying to buy a home? Is your credit causing your loan to be a problem? Stop being discriminated against because of your credit score. Credit repair services offer the removal of tax liens, bankruptcies, student loans and other collections.

That’s a commercial for one of the many services that says they can remove negative items from credit reports. I wanted to find out how they’d explain this. Remember, unless there’s a mistake, negative items can’t be removed from credit reports. So I called one of the companies — Today’s Credit Solutions. I asked John Pautsch, a manager there, about a claim on their website — a guarantee to improve scores.

TCS

Here, the story relies on a typical ploy of fake news. It tries to legitimize itself by connecting someone who has nothing to do with the company, or is even a wholly invented person, with someone who does work at TCS (in this case, its founder). Consumers have no way of knowing that this story is entirely fake. TCS never did any work for a client named Betty White; never charged White and doesn’t utilize any upfront fee price structure; and is not related in any way to the company addressed above.

Herships

That’s something that you can guarantee for every customer?

TCS

What is Sally Herships even asking here? Is she referring to all the issues she listed above? Is she leaving things out? This broad question is intended to mislead readers to assume Herships just asked John Pautsch all these questions, and that he then answered them below. In fact, the summaries below not only excise critical material, and substitutes different questions for those that were actually asked, it rewrites what Pautsch said so extensively as to make the story completely deceptive.

John Pautsch

Oh yeah. For us the more negative items that are on there, the more we’re going to remove.

TCS

When we consider the number of errors credit reports contain on a national scale, and the negative credit profiles of sub-prime borrowers, we find that the more problems we encounter on a credit report, the more resolutions can be made.  There is more to credit than just removing errors from credit reports, which is why we redefine credit repair through our credit maximization formula:

REMOVE + BUILD + SETTLE = CREDIT MAXIMIZATION

We take great pride in this formula because it educates consumers, businesses, and law makers as to what the standard and proper elements of repairing, improving, and fixing credit the right way are-and for short and long term strength.

Herships

Pautsch says they’re able to raise their customer’s credit scores by an average of 100 points.

Herships

Let’s say that I really didn’t pay a bill, how can you get that taken off my credit history?

TCS

Credit reporting and debt involve many different inter-related components, and Herships’ question again is deliberately opaque; it could, for example, refer to a debt that was inaccurately reported or unpaid because a client was unaware of what the debt was. The answer to this kind of question always depends on what the negative item is; what the client requests; and the procedures the system requires.

Pautsch

Just leveraging the laws to do it.

TCS

Existing laws protect consumers with regard to how negative items are reported, and mandate that everyone in the industry follows the same processes and procedures. By taking one piece of a sentence completely out of context, the blogger Sally Herships is able to advance her fake news agenda.

Herships

Pautsch says his credit repair firm is a member of the Better Business Bureau. But the BBB says they’ve revoked the company’s accreditation. But, while almost everything these services claim isn’t doable, they are right about one thing — it is possible to clean up a credit score.

TCS

TCS maintained an A rating with the Better Business Bureau even when not accredited with the company.  Again, Herships’ story insinuates something sinister by manipulating information. At one point, the BBB simply had a corporate rule preventing credit services corporations from being accredited. Feel free to check TCS’ BBB status at the bottom of this website.

Such willful misrepresentations confirm this blogger retains no credibility as a reporter of any information. As another example, look at the sentence after Herships’ BBB comment: Herships inaccurately states that TCS and John Pautsch cannot do what they say, but then immediately acknowledges it is possible to clean up a credit score. Note that Herships again hides behind ambiguity and obfuscation in claiming TCS can’t do “almost everything” it promises, but doesn’t specify what any of those things are. The only thing this fake news article does is try to connect TCS to the made up companies and unverified and unverifiable people in the article.

In fact, TCS routinely and consistently does everything it promises and more; it audits and verifies credit reports and personal information; eliminates credit reporting red flags; resolves mortgage underwriting red flags; prepares clients for winning financial transactions = lower interest rates and reduced payments; helps job applicants obtain employment; assists employees during job reviews; applies its trademark formula to clients’ niche credit situations; and works with clients to formulate individual plans to maximize credit scores and core personal finances to meet deadlines and goals.

Beverly White again

White: The sad news is I could have done it myself from the beginning. Hindsight is always 20-20.

TCS

So “Beverly White” knows how to fix credit, but chose not to do it herself. Her credit went “Untouched” and she lost $1400 to a company completely unrelated to Today’s Credit Solutions. These kinds of disingenuous insinuations are rampant in fake news. Readers of these unauthenticated sites and articles should always ask—what is the motivation of the website? How do the authors make their money? What expertise do they have in the subjects they are covering? Always rely on logic and common sense and don’t let uneducated, misinformed people lead you astray.

Tom Bartholomy at the Better Business Bureau says if there really is a mistake—an error on your credit history—you can contact the reporting agency to get it corrected. You’re also entitled, by law, to one free copy of your credit report every year. And he says if you’ve had bad credit, you have to do what the lenders are looking for, show you can make regular payments.

White

I was really looking for a quick fix. That’s what the bottom line actually is. A Quick fix.

Beverly White wasn’t able to get a penny back from the scammer. But she says did get her credit cleaned up herself. She slowly rebuilt her score with new cards and quick payoffs. Now she says her rating is over 700 — high enough to get a mortgage. She was finally able to buy a home in Charlotte — her first.

TCS

Another fake news tactic is to try to allege guilt by association. Here, the article implies that because Beverly White was scammed, it somehow discredits Today’s Credit Solutions—a company that never worked with (or had even heard of) her—simply because it is in the credit industry.

I’m Sally Herships for Marketplace Money.

TCS

The fact Sally Herships is allowed to associate herself with the words Marketplace Money is a disgrace to every industry and consumer in the United States of America. 

TCS reached out to Marketplace.org and Sally Herships about this purported article. We asked the following:

  1. Does Beverly White actually exist and can you verify her identity?
  2. Why does Sally Herships market herself as a Super Model in Soho, New York when she isn’t one?
  3. Does Marketplace.org ever evaluate the content of its articles or verify information from its bloggers?
  4. Do you have a process to correct inaccuracies? (ironically, the very subject of their putative expose of credit reports)

Not surprisingly, both Marketplace.org and Herships declined to comment and refused to provide a single answer to any of these critical questions.
Statement from John Pautsch, Founder and CEO or Today’s Credit Solutions:

“We always try to educate and empower others through our experience and knowledge. Not everyone has that ethos, and of course when you do a great job, some people and competitors will try to undermine you in any way they can. Unfortunately, some people in the media feel pressured to generate controversy, and it leads them to ignore what used to be the clear ethical standards of reputable print journalism. Then they become careless or deliberately misleading, and ultimately create a toxic pool of misinformation in the marketplace to generate web traffic. I’d say Ms. Herships and her employers should do some professional housekeeping and soul searching.”

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