One of the best financial things you can do for yourself is to regularly check your credit report. Identity theft is a huge business with billions of losses each year, not to mention all the time it takes to unravel the mess, so checking regularly is a great way to catch a theft early. That’s why you saw so many FreeCreditReport.com commercials on TV with the guy playing a guitar and singing about his ID theft woes!
So what’s the deal with them? Weren’t they sued? Is it a scam?
Let’s find out.
How to get your real free credit report.
First, the best and only place you should go to get a no-strings-attached free credit report from each of the three credit bureaus (Experian, TransUnion, Equifax) is AnnualCreditReport.com. It’s the website set up by the government to handle your requests and to give you more information about your rights granted to you by the various consumer protection laws governing credit.
While the name of the site is technically accurate, you do get a free credit report, it’s simply not the best place to go.
Despite the name of the site, which is otherwise run by a reliable company (the ultimate parent company is Experian, one of the three credit bureaus), FreeCreditReport.com is free only if you agree to sign up to a trial membership to their credit monitoring service. They settled with the FTC in 2005 for deceptive marketing practices and were required to pay out nearly a million dollars.
The reason it was deceptive was because you would get your free credit report and scores after you signed up to a trial membership to their credit monitoring service, which cost $79.95 a year. Since then, they’ve cleaned up their act and it’s very clear now that to get your score and report you are enrolled into a 30 day trial of their credit monitoring service.
Why do people use them?
Some people go to FreeCreditReport.com because they don’t know any better. Some people go knowing full well they’re signing up to a thirty day trial but they want to get a free credit score out of it. The law requires the credit bureaus to give you access to your credit report once a year but they are not required to give you your score.
If you want your score, you’ll have to buy it or sign up for one of these trials (here’s a list of trials for a free credit score). By taking advantage of the trial offer, consumers get their score and they can get it for free if they cancel the trial within 30 days.
It is not a scam. They make it very clear on their website that you are signing up to their credit monitoring service, Triple AdvantageSM Credit Monitoring, and they’re very clear about how much the service costs, $14.95 a month. They’ve also made it clear that they aren’t even the best place to get your credit report, with a link to the government website.
Now if only they would stop running those annoying commercials.