Curran Orders Credit Repair Company to Cease Illegal Credit Repair Practices

April 5, 2000

Attorney General J. Joseph Curran, Jr., announced today that the Consumer Protection Division has ordered a Baltimore company, Fresh Start Financial Services, Inc. and its President Joel Bowden, to cease offering credit repair services that are ineffective and illegal to consumers, including offering to remove accurate information from consumers' credit histories. Fresh Start and Mr. Bowden were further ordered to pay restitution to consumers and to stop charging or accepting payments in advance of providing any credit repair services, which is also a violation of state and federal law.

Under the Maryland Credit Services Businesses Act and United States Credit Repair Organizations Act, credit repair companies are required to inform consumers that they have the right to obtain information about their credit history from credit reporting agencies, and they have the right to dispute the accuracy of information in their credit reports, and that accurate information in a consumer's credit record may not be permanently removed. Credit repair companies are prohibited from charging or accepting advance payment for their services. In violation of that law, Fresh Start charged a $150 retainer and a monthly fee of $75.00 for services before they were rendered. Fresh Start also violated Maryland law by failing to post a bond with and obtain a license from the Maryland Commissioner of Financial Regulation.

"Consumers should be wary of quick-fix offers to repair their negative credit histories because often the services offered are ineffective and may even be illegal," said General Curran. "While sound financial guidance is being offered by some legitimate companies, there are no easy solutions to past credit problems."

The Attorney General has ordered Fresh Start and Bowden to cease taking payments from customers and return payments that have already been collected. Consumers with complaints against either Fresh Start or Bowden should contact the Consumer Protection Division at (410) 528-8662, or can download a consumer complaint form.

Media inquiries: Sean Caine (410) 576-6357