A reader wanted to know why the public returns for First Stone Credit Counseling listed commissions as an expense since nonprofit credit counselors are not allowed to pay commissions under 501(q). – Source
A visit to their site at firststone.com found a curious title to their site. It seems their primary focus is not credit counseling in the title but “legal credit repair.”
They even have a page on their site that says, “What Can First Stone® Credit Counseling™ Do for You That All The Others Can’t or Don’t?
With our unique program of PERMANENT credit file restoration, First Stone® Credit Counseling™ offers “credit file restoration/correction with settlement(s) and education as well as credit file clean-up”. This means that removal or neutralization of negative items within your credit report will cause your credit “RISK” scores to rise to A or better (eventually around 800 in the FICO system.)
FSCC knows the rules, knows the game, and have been successful for twenty (20) years. We and our consumer attorneys also know how best to use the rights provided to consumers by congress to put credit power back into your own hands.
Still Skeptical? Check us out with the following organizations:
Federal Trade Commission
600 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20580
(202) 326-2222” – Sourced
I contacted the FTC and they said, “the FTC does not provide references for companies or state whether a company is or is not violating the law.” So it seems telling consumers to contact the FTC to check them out is pointless, misleading, and confusing.
In looking more at their services I found this curious statement, “By the way, we also highly recommend you go join The People’s Credit Bureau, a Private Membership Consumer Advocate Guardian Association (even if you have no credit or credit file problems in order to avoid them) at www.peoplescreditbureau.com. And, If you hire FSCC you will also receive a two (2) year N/C membership included and much, much more. “Special Deal” 2½ years membership in TPCB a private club guardian service TPCB for the price of 1½ year, or $225- for singles and $300- for couples. Also is your down payment for credit restoration services with FSCC if you need that service. Based on the information that we compile, we will proceed to solve each problem, which will quickly improve your credit file and raise your credit RISK scores.” – Sourced
And this isn’t the first time this caught my eye. Back in 2011 I wrote about this as well, click here. In fact First Stone Credit Counseling even sued the IRS over the loss of their non-profit status. According to court records that case was dismissed on June 29, 2012 because the plaintiff did not “effect service.” The IRS website says they are still a public charity.
Well it turns out peoplescreditbureau.com is owned by Bruce Danielson and The First Stone, Inc. On the 990 return a Bruce Danielson is also listed as the Executive Director of First Stone Credit Counseling.
Oddly the email address listed for The First Stone, Inc. is the same as used by First Stone Credit Counseling. And the State of Texas lists The First Stone, Inc. as a for-profit company. The company also had an assumed name of Exercise for Life USA at one point as well. So apparently the domain name for the non-profit credit counseling group is owned by a for profit corporation.
And then the domain registration details mention yet another variant, FirstStone Media.
A Michael Harris, the same name as associated with FirstStone Media is also listed as a director on the First Stone Credit Counseling 990 return.
The People’s Credit Bureau website says it is “A consumer guardian service run by consumer advocates for the benefit of consumers.”
Apparently Bruce Danielson is also known as the Creditmaster and the group is a for profit company. You can watch him at work, here.
In the end this simple reader question has raised more questions than answers. From the looks of it, it appears the non-profit credit counseling group in Texas is referring consumers to a for profit company owned by the executive director and even the domain name of the non-profit is owned by the executive director’s for profit company.
I contacted the company for a comment and by the time of the publication I had not heard back.
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