Your credit score may determine whether you can take out a loan, buy insurance, rent an apartment, or even land a job. If your credit score takes a dive, you’re going to feel the pain.
Fortunately, credit repair companies may be able to help you remedy this situation. In many cases, people’s credit scores are depressed by inaccurate and outdated information.
In those situations, credit repair companies can become important allies of consumers by helping to ensure that credit histories are accurate.
Leadership In The Credit Repair Industry
One of these companies is Credit Saint LLC, founded in 2007 by industry leader Ross LaPietra.
Credit Saint broke new ground in credit repair by offering the first full-refund policy.
If a client sees no negative items removed from their credit report in 90 days, all fees are refunded in full.
In the intervening years, similar policies have been adopted by other companies.
Recent challenges to Credit Saint’s ability to reach out to its prospective customers have not diminished Mr. LaPietra’s determination to operate as a “consumer-centric” company dedicated to helping people repair their credit histories.
We spoke to him to get a deeper understanding of the vital role credit repair plays in the lives of consumers weighed down by bad credit.
Some questions and answers have been edited for brevity and clarity.
Why do people, in your experience, seek out credit repair companies such as yours?
People who have inaccuracies in their credit history are our target audience. There is a strong amount of Americans going through this and as a result, they’re paying too much interest or paying more than they should for credit.
If you try and contact a creditor and tell them about a mistake on your credit report, no one wants to take responsibility or make the changes that would correct things. They make you jump through a bunch of hoops and then people feel defeated by creditors who won’t update their credit history.
How do negative items on a credit report affect a person’s score?
The value of negative items in credit history is based on how recent they are. So, there’s a number of different types of items and different ways they can damage someone’s credit history.
How does having a bad credit history affect people’s lives on a day-to-day basis?
Creditors try to use your credit score to predict your ability to pay in the future. A poor credit score will make it so you’re paying fines that you wouldn’t have to pay if you had a good credit score, or even a passable credit score.
If you have something in your credit history that’s damaging to your report, it affects your ability to gain credit in certain situations that can be dire.
If you have a child that’s in school and you have a mistake in your history that stops you from providing for them, what happens to that child’s future?
What if you have to get a new car and there’s damage in your report that’s stopping you from [doing that]? There’s a domino effect of other things that go wrong in their lives for something that’s not even their fault in the first place. Your credit report affects more than your finances.
I could name a thousand examples. There’s refinancing your mortgage, there’s security clearance, there’s getting a job, getting insurance… credit is everywhere now.
And most importantly, it affects your level of actual income. Say you’re making $50,000 a year but you’re overpaying for a car or a house, it reduces your overall income. It reduces your ability to take care of your family and countless other things.
In the end, [credit is] the core of so many decisions that are made in the financial world.
Credit Saint was founded in 2007. What prompted you to start this company that helps so many people?
I saw another company doing it back then with no intention of helping anyone.
And with an actual refund policy and an A+ rating from the Better Business Bureau, we came in and with a plan to offer services that would actually see changes happen to people.
You mentioned the refund policy, which is very popular from what I gather. Why did you implement such a policy? Was there a particular catalyst?
I wanted our clients to feel they were covered in the event that we failed. I think people feel more comfortable if they have recourse in case nothing changes in their history.
So, at the time no other credit repair company offered a refund policy. It took years for people to start copying us. Only after we had taken over the lion’s share of the Google market, did people see us as a possible risk and start to copy our refund policy. You definitely have to put your money where your mouth is in an industry like this.
What’s the first thing that happens when someone comes to you needing help with bad credit?
The first step is to look at their credit history and see if they actually do need our help. We want to make sure that they have a reason to argue an item and not just blindly challenge things.
Let’s say you find there are some things on a given customer’s credit report that legitimately could and should be challenged. What do you do?
We build an argument based on the client’s own words. So we ask them to tell us specifically why they want to dispute an item; we won’t make up challenges. And then we take that argument, that truthful argument, wrap it in the Fair Credit Reporting Act and give it to the credit bureaus.
The credit bureaus are trying to make sure that they’re giving the best possible information in credit reports. Their goal is to have reports without errors, and we’re trying to make our argument be one that hits home as being something that’s not frivolous and is based on the truth with integrity. Hopefully, they see it our way. We win a lot of times, but sometimes we don’t win.
Is that done via paper letter or web form? How does that work?
The most aggressive challenges are done on paper.
But why are consumers paying you to make that happen? Is that not something they could do themselves?
Sure. They can challenge things online by themselves. They can challenge things on paper by themselves.
The only difference is that we will write legally charged letters and we have systems in place that are [in tune with] the response times that are required by the Fair Credit Reporting Act.
So as soon as the time periods in the investigations have lapsed, we’re back on top of the credit bureaus with a new challenge, rather than getting sidetracked with life, which is what happens to normal people.
Credit bureaus will do their investigation and we will stay on top of them. Our people have been doing this for 14 years. We’re the kind of company that’s watching every minute. You have to keep the pressure on. There is no magic wand here.
How would you describe your ideal customer?
People who are looking for us are the ones who are educating themselves about credit repair itself. Our client base is one that’s comparison shopping.
So they’re looking and they’re not going with the first thing they see — they’re comparing. Whenever someone opens the door to comparison shopping, Credit Saint is always number one.
You’re banking, essentially, on your expertise. Because even though I can do the same tasks, I’d be better off trusting them to a company with experts on the subject. Correct?
Anybody can teach themselves how to do this. It’s not rocket science to challenge your credit history, but perhaps your time is better spent doing something else.
So, let’s say our program costs $79 a month. If the time that you put into this and the distraction that it’ll take to stay on top of it is worth more than $79, then we’re the right program for you.
You’ve described the service you provide as a superior product. How did you come to develop it? Was there some reverse engineering involved on your part?
In 2007, in order to offer something different, I looked at what the leader in the industry was doing. Since then, we’ve developed a challenge system that is the most aggressive in the industry and has the best results. That’s why we offer a refund policy. And other companies that don’t do the same level of work per dollar, they can’t match us
We’re consumer-centric from the ground up. It’s expensive for us to do it our way and it takes a lot of humans versus the computer system, in order to catch the nuance in the full report and build the best possible argument.