An Arlington man desperate to boost his credit score says he lost thousands of dollars after hiring a company to help.
Runako Jinks has always wanted to open his own business, but his credit isn't anywhere near where it needed to be.
He started researching easy ways to get his score up, and a friend referred him to Lovell Jones, the owner of Credit Coach USA.
“My homeboy said he was cool," Jinks said. "He said it worked for him. Said it was totally worth the money."
Lovell Jones' company vows to drastically improve credit through a method called "credit piggybacking." Financial experts say it's legal, but risky.
Here's how it's supposed to work: Customers pay to be added to someone's credit card account. It has to be someone in great financial standing.
The new user piggybacks off their great credit and the primary users gets paid by Credit Coach USA: a win-win for both parties.
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“When you think about it, it's pretty genius," Jinks said. "So I was like yeah, I'll do it."
Jinks wired the owner of Credit Coach USA $2,800. He said he was told his score would get to 800, but he'd have to wait a couple months before he'd see a change.
“My fiancé was like, 'I don't know,'” Jinks said.
But he thought it was worth it. So, he waited.
“Months would pass and he said give me two months and you'll definitely see some results,” said Jinks. “Time kept passing so I called him up and I was like, 'man what's going on'? He said, 'aw baby. A lot of things have happened.'"
The owner said their Citi, Capital One and Discover Cards were shut down. This created a back log of clients that they had to switch to different cards and a waiting period for cards to become available.
“This is well worth it, I’m going to wait,” said Jinks.
But a year went by and his credit wasn't going up. So, he asked Jones for a refund. Jones said, "I understand. I'm on it."
But the next month, no refund.
“Eventually, it came to a point where he blocked me on Facebook. Hurt my feelings,” Jinks explained.
That's when Jinks decided to look into Lovell Jones and Credit Coach USA. He found other complaints online from people with similar stories. We looked into the company and found that its website has been taken down. All numbers associated with Credit Coach USA have been disconnected.
The NBC 5 Responds team sent several emails to Lovell Jones and haven't gotten a response.
We brought in certified financial planner Katie Brewer to look into Credit Coach USA and the Credit Piggybacking method.
She said the practice has worked for people who want to help a relative boost or establish credit, but says doing this with a stranger is incredibly risky for both parties.
“You're kind of trusting that this person that has a history of not having on time payments has changed or is not going to show the past history of what they have done,” she said.
On the flip side, she said the primary user could also kick you off the account altogether without warning.
They're risks Jinks says he hadn't thought of until he was out of thousands of dollars.
“He sold me this dream and he didn't come through,” he said.
It's been nearly two years since Jinks signed up for Credit Coach USA. He said his credit has recently improved and he attributes that to paying his bills on-time and signing up for auto-pay.
As for this "Credit Piggybacking" method, keep this in mind:
• To do it, you'd have to give the authorized user personal info like your social security number in order to add you to their account.
• If it's a stranger, that's a big no-no.
• If a company is telling you to apply for credit using a "CPN" or a "credit profile number," that's a big red flag.
• The FTC says companies will use this to advertise a new credit identity, and it's a big scam. In some cases, businesses may have even stolen social security numbers to make money, which is considered identity theft.