Social media influencer Dana Chanel will pay back her Instagram followers more than $87,000 after the Pennsylvania Attorney General’s Office found that she misled them about a credit repair service she promoted.
Pennsylvania attorney general Michelle Henry has finalized restitution payments with Chanel, whose real full name is Casey Olivera, of South Jersey.
The IG influencer used her followers, now at 1.1 million, to promote Credit Exterminators, Inc., a fraudulent financial service, according to The Philadelphia Inquirer.
The Iffy Credit Repair Business
“Advertising in today’s world has changed, and people trust personalities they follow online to promote desirable goods,” AG Henry said in a statement. “In these cases, consumers were misled by the influencer and businesses that did not deliver on purchases.”
Credit repair companies like Credit Exterminators, Inc., often send dispute letters to credit bureaus to remove negative marks, but this might not always work, The New York Times reported. These companies cannot always get results, and even if they do, it is usually just a temporary fix. If users stop repaying a loan, that negative information will reappear when the lender updates users’ credit reports.
Chanel reportedly was involved in misleading nearly 800,000 consumers with her credit repair business. Customers paid $2,000 or more for credit coaching, monitoring and account resolution. It has been reported that the influencer co-owned the company and knowingly broke state consumer protection laws by deceiving customers and not delivering the paid-for products and services.
Chanel and Her Businesses
In addition to a credit repair business, Chanel also co-owns a mobile app developer company called Alakazam Apps, which reportedly also tricked customers into receiving a custom-built application for their business.
According to The Inquirer, Alakazam Apps clients included small-business owners and nonprofit executives. They paid as much as $2,000 each to have custom apps created, but they never got the apps for which they paid. One customer mentioned in the lawsuit said she tried contacting the company more than 10 times, but never received a response or a refund.
This dispute has been a long-lasting conflict in the Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas, lasting for two years and involving two Attorney Generals. First, Henry took legal action, and then, in November 2021, the then-attorney general, Josh Shapiro, filed a lawsuit against Chanel.
“Dana Chanel built a following online by presenting herself as a Black woman-owned small business success story,” Shapiro, now Pennsylvania’s governor, said in a statement at the time. “She advertised the products of her companies as a way for other Black small business owners to achieve what she did. Then, she ripped off the same community she claimed to care about.”
For some who followed her, to make matters worse apart from being a recognized Black woman business owner, she would speak of her Christian faith. In previous interviews with The Inquirer, she shared that she’s found God and is devoted to serving a higher purpose, aiming to empower Black communities by fostering intergenerational wealth through technology entrepreneurship.
“Money is the last thing, what we need to have is this power. And we only have power in what society deems a financial asset, and it’s data,” she told The Inquirer in 2019. “It’s how fast can I talk to you before the enemy does.”
Before becoming a business owner and embracing her Christian faith, she was a receptionist at a strip club. Now, she and her family, including her father and sister listed as owners, must pay over $120,000 in total, including $87,000 for restitution, $31,000 in legal fees and $6,000 in civil penalties, after being exposed as frauds.
Chanel’s demeanor remains unruffled after the settlement.
Although Henry said Chanel could no longer advertise or sell credit repair or mobile app services, that does not stop her from operating other businesses.
These goods and services include a “heavy metal detox spray” that she demonstrates by spraying it into her children’s mouths. She is also promoting a service for “instant life insurance coverage for as low as $1 per day.”