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

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Avoid the pretenders, the add-on services, the trial offers, and the rest of the nonsense on the Web. There's only one place to really get your report for free.

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.

Stacy Johnson

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