Beware the Free Credit Report Scam
I heard about a government website where I can get a free credit report, but after I log in, it seems they want me to buy a 'credit monitoring' package before I get my 'free' report. Is this a scam, or did I miss something in the process?
How to Get THREE Free Credit Reports Every Year
Many people are vaguely aware that they can get free annual credit reports. But when they try to get their free credit report, they may get confused by websites that ask them to buy or subscribe to something in order to get the "free" report. You've probably seen or heard commercials for websites that offer a free credit report, replete with singing and dancing pirates. But the path to obtaining the free report is a little bumpy, and quite often turns out not to be free at all.
FreeCreditReport.com is one notorious example. They want you to pay $1 for a 7-day trial membership, and if you fail to cancel within the trial period, you get billed $14.95 a month forever. You can get your credit report without the trial membership, but they make you wait up to 2 days to receive it. Both federal and state agencies have sued this website (which just happens to be owned by the Experian credit bureau) multiple times for deceptive trade and advertising practices. Stay away.
The fact is, you don't have to spend any money to get a free annual credit report. In fact, you can get THREE free credit reports per year, every year!
The Federal Trade Commission enforces the law which requires credit reporting agencies to provide a consumer with free credit reports once a year. In response to consumer complaints about being charged for "free" credit reports, the FTC now requires every Web site offering free credit reports to prominently display this advisory: "You have the right to a free credit report from AnnualCreditReport.com or 877-322-8228, the ONLY authorized source under federal law."
There are three major credit reporting agencies: Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion. By ordering a free credit report from just one of these services at a time, you can get up to three free credit reports during the course of a year. For example, you can order the free Experian report in January, the Equifax credit report in May, and the TransUnion report in September. Repeat the cycle every year, and you can keep tabs on your credit much more often than once a year.
Use This Link To Avoid Credit Report Scams
To avoid confusion and scams, use this link to access the official US Goverment website: AnnualCreditReport.com. You'll start by entering your state of residence; name, address, Social Security Number, birth date, and other personal identification info. To verify your identity, you may be asked to answer questions about your past credit purchases, i.e., "which of these car models have you purchased in the past five years." You can also select which credit reporting agency you wish to use. Results are displayed immediately online and can be printed if you wish.
During the process, you will probably be presented with "upsell" offers for credit monitoring, or your credit score. You're under no obligation to purchase any of these services in order to get your free credit report. I suggest you read my related articles on Credit Monitoring and how to get a Free Credit Score before you decide to purchase either one.
It is wise to check your credit report at least once a year for several reasons. First, identity theft is on the rise; someone may be getting credit in your name and trashing your credit history when he/she does not pay. Identity theft causes long-lasting nightmares for victims. A bad credit history can cost you a job, a loan, a rental, a debt collection lawsuit, and even send you to jail.
Second, credit reports sometimes contain mistakes or outdated information. If you feel the information in your credit report is incorrect, you can challenge it. Write to the credit reporting agency explaining why you feel the report is incorrect; include copies of any supporting documents; and request that the incorrect info be removed from your credit history file or corrected. The credit reporting agency must investigate your dispute within 30 days. If a change is made to your credit history as a result of your dispute, all three credit reporting agencies will be notified along with any organizations to which you have applied for credit recently.
You are also entitled to a free credit report if you have been turned down for credit, received an interest rate increase from a credit card company, or suffered any other adverse action as a result of your credit history. That's in addition to your three free annual credit reports.
Have you used the AnnualCreditReport website yet? Post your comment or question below...
This article was posted by Bob Rankin on 9 Jun 2011
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Article information: AskBobRankin -- Beware the Free Credit Report Scam (Posted: 9 Jun 2011)
Copyright © 2005 - Bob Rankin - All Rights Reserved