Family warns about credit counseling gone bad

HOUSTON - Thousands of Americans turn to credit counseling services for help to get out of debt. One family said the company they thought would help them disappeared after they paid a big fee up front.

"We were trying to do something right," Montgomery Leach said. "We were trying to back on track."

Leach wanted to buy a new home, but he admitted that his credit wasn't stellar. He and his wife signed a nine-month contract with Credit Strategies and paid the company almost $2,300 to improve his credit.

"It's frustrating financially, you know, as far as trying to come up with a sum of money that you don't exactly have on hand," Leach said.

Leach said he doesn't think he did the right thing. He said Credit Strategies did not live up to its end of the bargain. He said the trouble started six months into the deal. Right around that time he said he was told that the owner died and his son and wife would be running the business.

"My wife tried sending an email. The email came back as there is no longer a domain for that web listing," Leach said. "So then we called the number. The phone is disconnected."

KPRC Local 2 could not reach anybody by phone, so reporter Andy Cerota went to the address listed on Leach's contract. The office was dark and empty.

Leach filed a complaint with the Better Business Bureau. It's one of four on file.

"The company actually has an F rating with the BBB right now due to the unresolved complaint issues," said Leah Napoliello of the Better Business Bureau.

While Leach may never see his money again, he said what hurts most is that he feels like he is back at square one.

"It's frustrating that our credit has done nothing, since they were supposed to resolve these matters," Leach said.

BBB officials recommended trying to get help from nonprofit organizations first. Some offer free credit counseling services. They also recommended researching companies before signing a contract.

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