Wendy Windsor: “I made the payments to them, however, none of the payments were made to my creditors.”

Laura Jorgensen: “It’s been terrible. I own my home and I can’t even get a home equity line of credit.”

7News has learned a South Florida debt management company is under investigation after dozens of complaints from customers across the country. Investigative reporter Carmel Cafiero is on the case.

There’s no doubt that money makes the world go around. But charge too much on plastic and your credit rating can go down the drain. That’s especially true when the bills for all that holiday shopping start rolling in.

The web site for Financial Help Services, a Fort Lauderdale company, claims it has “helped over three million people find a way out of debt.” For a fee, it takes in monthly payments from customers and then pays creditors at reduced interest rates. But customers across the country say Financial Help Services is not helping, but hurting, their already fragile financial situations.

Laura Jorgensen: “My credit is worse than ever.”

Laura Jorgensen of Hollywood has filed a complaint with the Attorney General’s Office against Financial Help Services and its president. She says her payments were not sent on to her creditors.

Laura Jorgensen: “I’d get phone calls 365 days a year. Didn’t matter if it was Easter, Christmas, or whatever. They even started calling my 15-year-old daughter’s cell phone.”

She’s not alone. 7News has discovered dozens of complaints from 21 states have been filed with Florida officials. Over and over again, customers claim they paid Financial Help Services but it never paid their creditors. Among them: Wendy Eindsor who talked with us via Skype from Louisiana.

Wendy Windsor: “The creditors were calling every day and what happened as a result of the missed payments for two months? All the interest rates went up.”

In other complaints, customers described their experience with the company as everything from horrific to alarming. One wrote “instead of improving our credit they have ruined it.”

Bobby Blackmon is the president of Financial Help Services. I went to his Fort Lauderdale office.

Carmel Cafiero: “I’m looking for Mr. Blackmon. Can you put me in touch with him, please?”

Receptionist: “He’s currently not in, but hold on one second.”

Jesus Cabrera says he’s worked for the company for only a few days.

Carmel Cafiero: “Hi, what do you do here?”

Jesus Cabrera: “I answer the phones.”

Carmel Cafiero: “Are you getting a lot of complaints lately?”

Jesus Cabrera: “Not a lot.”

But the Better Business Bureau has a lot. It reports 173 complaints and gives Financial Help Services an ‘F’ rating. When no one would talk with me at the office, I left my card for the company president. Bobby Blackmon did call but after agreeing to a telephone interview, he left this message.

Bobby Blackmon: “After speaking with my attorney, I was advised that in the best interest of my company and my clients, it wasn’t a good idea to do any kind of recorded interview with you guys.”

He did send a statement that blames the problems on a broken water pipe that flooded the office. In part Blackmon wrote the office was “non-operational for a period of three weeks.” adding “our staff was not adequately equipped with the amount of man power to respond to the telecommunication and written correspondence” from customers.

Carmel Cafiero: “Blackmon also told us his company contacted creditors and has added staff. It will now be up to the Attorney General’s Office to determine exactly what went wrong.”

Carmel Cafiero 7News.

Miami-Dade: 305-627-CLUE
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E-mail: clue@wsvn.com

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