Late-night jingles sing of free credit reports, but as many people have found out, those credit reports are not so free after all.
Your Right to a Free Credit Report
The Fair and Accurate Credit Transactions Act of 2003 allows consumers to get a free credit report every year from each of the three credit bureaus. That means, every year you can get one free credit report from Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion for a total of three free credit reports.
The FTC partnered with the credit bureaus to offer a centralized way for consumers to get these credit reports - through annualcreditreport.com. However, imposter sites confuse consumers and trick them into paying for their free credit reports.
Free Credit Report Scams
One of the most well-known imposter sites is freecreditreport.com. The site's name itself hints that the site offers free credit reports - and it does, but there are some strings attached. To get your "free" credit report from freecreditreport.com, you have to sign up for a trial subcription to a credit monitoring service, which requires your credit card number. If you forget to cancel the subscription before the trial period ends, your credit card will be charged and you've just paid for that free credit report.
In 2005, the World Privacy Forum found 233 free credit report imposter sites, many of which included affiliate links to one of the three credit bureaus. None of the imposters had links to the real site for free credit reports - annualcreditreport.com.
How to Avoid a Scam
Free credit report scams are tricky and misleading. If you're not careful, you could end up paying a hundred dollars more for your free credit report. Here's how to avoid a scam:
- Type the URL (annualcreditreport.com) directly into your browser making sure to spell it correctly. Some of the imposter sites take advantage of misspelled URLs.
- Don't enter your credit card number. Your FACT Act credit report will not require you to enter a credit card number.
- Don't sign up for a free trial to any kind of subscription service. You will not have to sign up for anything to receive your free credit report.