"Free" Credit Report Sites: Worth the Real Costs?

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A research study that reviewed the use the 'free" credit reports in internet marketing was prepared last year by Robert Mayer as consultant and advisor to Consumer Reports WebWatch. 


In light of the recent string of articles about the use of keywords and links used in internet marketing to deceptively and purposely to misdirect the public for profit and commercial gain...this report deserves a second look...


The report examines Web sites that offer consumers paid access to their credit reports in combination with credit scores, credit monitoring, and/or identity theft insurance. These sites are alternatives to annualcreditreport.com, created as a result of the Fair and Accurate Credit Transaction Act of 2003 (FACTA), which entitles consumers to obtain, once a year, a free copy of their credit reports from each of the three major credit reporting bureaus - Equifax, Experian, and Transunion.


The "alternative" sites to annualcreditreport.com market themselves aggressively to consumers.


Major Findings

1. Based on an analysis of 58 offers made on 24 alternative sites, we conclude that the enticement of free credit reports and free credit scores is an integral part of the marketing of credit related services.


The most common offer (57% of the 58 offers analyzed) provides one or more free credit reports and one or more free credit scores with the purchase of a credit monitoring service. The second most common offer (15% of the remaining) involves access to a free credit scores with the purchase of three credit reports. Some of these uses of the term "free" may be inconsistent with the regulatory guidelines of the Federal Trade Commission and the selfregulatory

standards of the Better Business Bureau.


2. While there appear to be an abundance of Web sites offering credit reports for free, or as part of a multiservice offer that includes something for free, the industry is far more concentrated than it first appears. Of the 24 sites analyzed, nine were owned by or closely connected to Transunion and eight were owned by or otherwise closely connected to Experian. This concentrated market structure has potentially negative consequences for competition and aspects of market performance (e.g., price, quality, choice, and innovation).


3. Many Web site names and URLs contain the word "free" and/or are similar enough to

annualcreditreport.com to possibly cause consumer confusion. Those using the word "free" include:


• free3bureaucreditreport.com

• freebiecreditreport.com

• freecreditreports.com

• freecreditreportsinstantly.com

• freecreditreport.com

• thefreecreditreportsource.com.


Those similar to annualcreditreport.com include:

• creditreport.com

• creditreporting.com

• nationalcreditreport


Another known danger for consumers trying to get to the official annualcreditreport.com site involves the danger of typos...if you create a typo in the intended url -you are often whisked away to another site.


The best way to avoid being duped, confused or misdirected to non-intended sites -is to call the toll free number: 877-322-8228


The automated line will allow you to order your free annual credit reports from each bureau. Call from home, or use the number the cra's have on record for you. 


Read the full report and review the study findings see:  full study 


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I recently saw this website - freebiecreditreport - claiming that you can get a credit report and credit score 100% free. Ha! Yeah as long as you remember to cancel the 7 day trial. Consumer beware, sign up for these services if you must, but remember to cancel before trial ends or be billed up to $30/month. Yeah well needless to say I neglected to cancel within the free trial and had to shell out the dough.

That's a great read. Thanks for sharing.


The old adage still applies : There are no "free" lunches in this world. Expecting one for a credit reports or a credit monitoring service seems foolhardy.

That there exists internet marketeers who use keywords and links to deceptively misdirect the public for profit and commercial gain is not enough to also have the enticement of free credit reports and free credit scores as an integral part of the marketing of credit related services.

Your blog is very helpful for me. I learn much knowledge that I didn't know previous from your blog.Thanks for sharing, cheers.

Until recently, credit was readily available and it made it easy to live beyond one’s means. However, the downturn in the housing marked forced thousands of hard-working and modest people to use their credit cards as emergency funds to supplement their income. Mortgages adjusted and higher payments had to be paid while income had gone down

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