Don’t Get Suckered Into a “Free” Credit Report

There’s only one reliable place to get a free, federally authorized credit report: www.annualcreditreport.com.

Consumers still get conned into paying for reports. They are regularly roped into credit monitoring services they don’t need or sometimes even know about. But the site linked above is free, and there are no strings attached. You get a free report from each of the three major credit bureaus, once per year.

The Sacramento Bee describes a recent case where 82-year-old Jim Fossum thought he was going to the right site, and managed to get his report for “free,” but somehow ended up signing up for $30-a-month credit monitoring through GoldenScoresLLC.com.

He didn’t know until it appeared on his credit card statement, and learned too late you have to opt out within 10 days. Slimy, but it happens all the time, the paper says:

Fossum’s experience is common. And that’s despite federal regulations that now require sites offering free credit reports to provide full disclosure about trial memberships and a link to the federally authorized AnnualCreditReport.com. It also comes after a much-publicized Federal Trade Commission case in 2005 against FreeCreditReport.com, [which] was fined more than $1.2 million.

There are a lot of knock-offs who put “free” in the name or deliberately misspell annualcreditreport.com, hoping you will too, the FTC says. Any mention of free credit reports in an email, a pop-up ad, or a phone call is probably bogus.

Even the credit bureaus, Experian, TransUnion, and Equifax, will try to charge you on their own websites. If you need an additional report beyond your freebie, you may have no other option. (There are situations where you can get extra free reports, the FTC says, including if a credit application is denied, you’re recently unemployed, on welfare, or if you’re an identity theft victim.) But make sure you check through AnnualCreditReport first.

It’s also crucial to know a credit score is not the same as a credit report — scores are a numerical summary of what’s in the report, and there are many formulas to derive a score. The one most widely used by lenders, FICO, isn’t given away free at any place we know of.

You can learn more about your credit score, including how to raise it, in the video below.

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Comments & discussion

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  • Brian Culver

    My Walmart credit card gives a monthly score claiming to be from FICO. There is no charge, but is it a true FICO score?

    • Julia

      I believe credit cards that offer this perk pay for the FICO score through an annual fee or higher interest rate. Therefore, I would trust that it is a true FICO score.

  • Ron Sakulin

    I find that creditkarma.com is pretty accurate, is free, with no apparent gimmiks. The score I get at Creditkarma is ten points higher than my Experian score, which is provided to U. S. Bank as a free benefit to their credit card users. Close enough for me. Try it.

  • LinBar

    You mean like the Free Credit Report ad that is just to the right of this article?

    • Dan

      Yes, just like that.

    • http://www.moneytalksnews.com/ Dan Schointuch

      Yep. That’s Google AdSense. It matches words on the page with related ads. But it’s not quite sophisticated enough to figure out that our article is telling you to avoid those products.

  • peggy

    Creditkarma.com works for me, and it is free! I also get it free through aaa auto club.