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Is AnnualCreditReport.com a Scam?

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AnnualCreditReport.comOne of the common topics in personal finance is the importance of checking your credit report for errors. Credit reports are notorious for having errors and the most common credit report errors include listing accounts that aren’t yours, including personal information that is misleading or completely wrong, and attributing negative items, like accounts being in collections, to you. These are all detrimental to you on a number of levels and the only way you can fix this is by disputing it. The only way to find out if you have these errors is to review your credit report. Until the Fair Credit Reporting Act, you had to pay the bureaus to see your report (see how the bureaus had little incentive to get your information right?), but now you can get it for free once a year.

The site everyone talks about to get your reports for free is Annualcreditreport.com, but is the site legit? Could it be a scam?

Is Annualcreditreport.com A Scam?

In short, no, and I’ll try to prove that it’s not a scam. This is an important question because by using that site, you are giving it a lot of personal information that an identity thief would love to get. Let’s see how we can find out more information about annualcreditreport.com.

Looking up website registration information: If you do a WHOIS on the domain, the registration is privatized – that is, we can’t see who registered the domain. A whois lookup just yields that the registration is GoDaddy’s private registration service, Domains by Proxy, and the email address is annualcreditreport.com@domainsbyproxy.com, which is standard operating procedure for privatizing a domain registration.

Central Source LLC runs AnnualCreditReport.com. In the footer of the pages and in various privacy and security pages, the bottom of the page is copyright Central Source LLC. AnnualCreditReport.com is not a government run website. It’s run by Central Source LLC, a company incorporated in Atlanta, GA and is a joint venture between the three credit bureaus – Equifax Information Services, Experian Information Solutions, and TransUnion.

If you visit the AnnualCreditReport.com website, select a state and click through to start entering information. You should notice that your communications with them are now encrypted using SSL. There is a VeriSign Secured logo at the top right, clicking that shows that the SSL Certificate is valid, the registered company matches (Central Source LLC in Atlanta, GA).

FTC Directs Consumers to AnnualCreditReport.com

According to the Federal Trade Commission, “AnnualCreditReport.com is the ONLY authorized source for the free annual credit report that’s yours by law. The Fair Credit Reporting Act guarantees you access to your credit report for free from each of the three nationwide credit reporting companies — Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion — every 12 months. The Federal Trade Commission has received complaints from consumers who thought they were ordering their free annual credit report, and yet couldn’t get it without paying fees or buying other services. TV ads, email offers, or online search results may tout “free” credit reports, but there is only one authorized source for a truly free credit report.” The website is again referenced on this form on the FTC website (and the form is copyright of Central Source LLC, the joint venture) and on this FTC Consumer Alert.

So we know that the website is not government run but run by a joint company owned by the big three credit bureaus. It is SSL encrypted so the data you transmit is reasonably secure. Finally, the FTC, in multiple instances, points consumers to the website to request free credit reports. While I would be more comfortable with a government run website, the reality is that the law orders credit bureaus to provide this information and this is how they chose to do it. We shouldn’t be spending tax dollars coordinating this, the bureaus should be spending their money to provide it.

There is one gotcha when it comes to these free credit reports. After you enter your information and you are handed off to the individual bureaus, expect to be hammered with offers to buy credit scores and credit monitoring services. None are required to see your report but that doesn’t mean they won’t try to upsell you something!

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18 Responses to “Is AnnualCreditReport.com a Scam?”

  1. Jason says:

    Ive used it every year since it was available in my state. I typically pull mine once a year during tax time to make sure things are still looking good. Its not hard to avoid the extra fees…simply create the reports…and print or save yourself a PDF copy. This will only get you a REPORT…not a credit SCORE.

  2. Jon says:

    I’ve been using annualcreditreport.com for seven or eight years now. In order to monitor my credit throughout the year, rather than pull all three reports from each of the bureaus at once, I pull one from each approximately four months apart. You can use something like Google calendar to set reminders to do this at specific times. It’s been interesting to see what bits of information creep in – nothing damaging to credit for me, but once they had my date-of-birth the same year as my father’s.

  3. Einstein says:

    I’ll tell you what, that AnnualCreditReport site is just about the ugliest website I’ve seen in my life.

    I guess that’s what’cha get with the good ol’ government, though. Just like food back in school, the best credit reports are the credit reports that are free. I use ACR every year, just as I would recommend others to do.

    • elliott says:

      Because the website is so ugly, I use their phone-based request method. A nice printed report shows up in my mailbox and I don’t have to decline a “free” credit score.

      • Einstein says:

        Sweet – I’m going to check that out next year. I was worried they might send some goofy spreadsheet printed out on the early output paper. I’ve never thought of calling by phone. Thanks!

  4. Shirley says:

    Since I now have CreditKarma and CreditSesame tracking two of the three credit reporting agencies (Thanks Jim!) I will now pull mine from Equifax at ACR.com and then my husband’s six months from now. This feels like a pretty good way to stay on top of it all. :-)

  5. Tony says:

    While I appreciate the content of these type of articles, perhaps you might not title them with “Is XYZ a scam?” simply to improve search rankings / placement. It’s rather tacky, especially since there isn’t any widespread controversy regarding the legitimacy of the sites you’ve done that with.

    • Jim says:

      I disagree with your point about it being tacky, I’m simply trying to reach folks who are looking for legitimate information about these sites. There may not be widespread controversy but people are asking, so I want to answer that question. I see your point though.

      • David M says:

        I agree more with Tony than Jim.

        I like the content of your website Jim but I think Tony is correct that you are using “Scam” as a Marketing tool.

        “There may not be widespread controversy but people are asking,” really made me smile – it sounds like something I hear from politicians all the time.

        David

        • Jason says:

          Gotta agree here too…this is the third “is this a scam” post ive read here…Good info, but the title seems a bit misleading.

      • freeby50 says:

        Jim has a point.

        I wrote an article on my blog about how to use annualcreditreport and I got a LOT of comments from people who declared it was a scam or some sort of rip off or con. You’d be surprised. I think a lot of people if not most know this site is legit but there are a lot of folks who assume its a scam.

        There are definitely people out there who are confused about this. I think part of the problem is the other ‘free credit score’ or ‘free credit report’ websites out there. People get confused between annualcreditreport.com and the other for profit sites. Freecreditscore in fact got in trouble for its deceptive marketing practices that fueled the confusion. Plus the annualcreditreport.com site is ugly and barely looks legit. So its easy to wonder if its a THE real site or just a scammy copycat. So there certainly ARE people out there confused. When those people question if annualcreditreport.com is a scam or not they will search for “is annualcreditreport.com a scam” and might hit this article.

  6. PFM says:

    I’ve used to reports for both my wife & I since it became available, it’s a great tool to monitor your credit report, easy to ignore the offers for your actual credit report. I was aware that the site run by the credit bureaus, but always wondered if the govt has oversight of the program.
    And Jim- good for you for using a post name that gets attention, if it gets more people to use the site then you’ve done them a service.

  7. PFM says:

    wow, sorry for the typos in my previous post, not enough coffee yet ;)
    “easy to ignore the offers for you actual credit SCORE”

  8. yourPFpro says:

    Since ACR gives you a free credit report from each of the three bureaus per year I like to stagger them evenly throughout the year.

    For example, I’ll get Equifax in January, Experian in May and TU in September.

  9. freeby50 says:

    I use the site every year. Its most definitely not a scam.

  10. eric says:

    I could’ve sworn I signed up for your credit report email reminders, but somehow I’m not seeing them! Maybe they ended up in my spam folder but I know I’ve been forgetting to check every 4 months.

  11. Chris OShaunnessy says:

    Well, I just went to ACR and they said that they couldn’t email me my report “for my protection”, but they want me to MAIL them photo copies of my social security card, or my paystub of my W-2 form. I don’t feel comfortable with that, so I guess on Monday I’ll try to call them. Just because the “govt” endorses these people, I’m not just going to send off COPIES of my most sensitive documents in the MAIL. Weird. I’ve used them before too, several years ago and this did not happen. Not feeling very warm and fuzzy at the moment :(

  12. Bennett Sands says:

    Have been looking online for do-it-yourself investigation tips, especially for investigating YOURSELF as a privacy measure. Everything out there is just a sales come-on, except one article, called Investigate Yourself, on a site called talentjumpers dot com. It is DISGUSTING that you have to search through hundreds of false promises before you find ONE BIT of content that tells HOW to do it. SHAME on the Internet!


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