Consumers Complain About Fast Loans From Metro Atlanta Corporation – WSB-TV Channel 2

ATLANTIS — UPDATE: Justin Gray, Channel 2 investigative reporter learned that Attorney General Chris Carr’s office is currently investigating Greensky. We confirmed the state’s investigation after an open records request to the Attorney General. The Attorney General’s office denied our request for documents related to Greensky because it has an open investigation into the company.

ORIGINAL STORY:

An Atlanta company says it’s easy for you to get a loan quickly to pay people who do construction or repair work on your home.

But one Channel 2 Action News investigation revealed that the same things that make the system so simple could put your money at risk for shady contractors.

Channel 2 investigative journalist Justin Gray noticed a common thread between the complaints we received over several months.

They ended up owing thousands of dollars to the same Atlanta company, Greensky.

Pots and pans line the floor of 75-year-old Della Patterson’s home in LaGrange, Georgia. When it rains, the water flows through the holes in the roof of the house she has owned for more than 40 years.

“My husband and I had this house built from the ground up,” Patterson said.

But every day, for more than a year, Patterson’s phone rang, sometimes several times a day.

“Sometimes I lay in my bed and cry. And I wonder why they do to me the way they did,” Patterson said.

It was an Atlanta company, Greensky, calling. Greensky wanted to be paid for the loan on the new roof. A loan Patterson says he never took out and a roof that was never installed.

“If they had done anything for me and fixed my house, I wouldn’t mind paying them. But they didn’t do anything for me,” Patterson said.

MORE STORIES FROM 2 INVESTIGATIONS:

In DeKalb County, Alice Lowery owes Greensky more than $40,000 for mold removal and rebuilding of her basement.

Lowery is physically disabled and mostly blind. The basement is always messy.

“I’m very nervous. I’m scared. I’m scared,” Lowery said.

So how is Greensky involved?

Greensky calls itself a technology company, not a lender or a bank.

That’s the pitch: in seconds, sellers can easily get a customer’s approval for a loan through Greensky with a smartphone or tablet. The money goes directly to that supplier, not to the customer.

Consumer advocates say that’s a big red flag.

“It’s so dangerous,” said Liz Coyle, executive director of the nonprofit consumer protection group Georgia Watch. “If an entrepreneur wants to take advantage of someone, Greensky gives them the perfect place to do it.”

That’s exactly what happened to Della Patterson.

A roofer came to the house and tried to convince her to take out a Greensky loan. She says he called her several times, trying to pressure her into getting the funding. Patterson says she never accepted.

“I said I didn’t want to go through any loans,” Patterson said.

But she says the roofer signed her for a Greensky loan anyway. He got the money and never came back to do anything again.

Greensky declined an on-camera interview, but company vice president Gerry Benjamin told Gray in a phone call that they were carefully reviewing traders.

“If there’s an unscrupulous merchant, we’ll kick them off the platform,” Benjamin said. “We are totally a consumer advocate.”

Benjamin said in an email:

The GreenSky program’s customer complaint rate is consistently only a fraction of that reported by Visa and Mastercard in card-not-present situations.

Lowery’s contractor, Mina Ownlee of C and M remodeling, told us she tried to become a Greensky Approved Dealer and was turned down.

But she was still paid over $20,000 by Greensky for the incomplete work on Lowery’s house.

“You’re not a Greensky salesman?” Gray asked.

“I am not a Greensky supplier,” Ownlee said.

“But she took a loan from GreenSky and paid you? Gray followed.

“Correct,” Ownlee said.

Class action lawsuits have been filed against Greensky in California and Missouri.

In a 2018 court case, Alabama state investigators determined that Greensky “abdicated and outsourced its role and obligations as a lender.”

After our phone conversation, Greensky’s vice president personally stepped in and canceled Patterson’s debt.

Greensky says he kicked that roofer off his rig shortly after Patterson was unknowingly signed for that loan.

But Greensky still tried to raise money from Patterson more than a year later.

As to how an unapproved supplier can be paid by Greensky, Benjamin wrote to us:

“Consumers frequently receive a 15-digit “purchase card” (i.e. virtual MasterCard), by which any merchant accepting Visa, MasterCard or Amex, through a regular point-of-sale terminal, can also accept Greensky as the consumer’s method of payment.