Credit Reports are Free Annually...Don't get tricked into paying for them!

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Over the years I have heard from many consumers who mistakenly believed was the legitimate site to go to when trying to obtain their free annual credit reports.

Who wouldn't think that was the place? The commercials and catchy jingles like "F.R.E.E, that spells Free Baby" are just one of their many ads aimed at warning us to get our free credit reports implying we could then avoid identity theft. Trouble is, one, they're not free (unless you purchase their credit monitoring service) and two, credit monitoring absolutely will not stop thieves from stealing your identity!

Too bad they didn't spend a portion of the reported $70.7 million dollars they spent on major media advertising in 2007, (according to a recent NY Times article) to provide us with the available toll free number, or legitimate website, where we can actually get our "free" credit reports!

The Federal Trade Commission fined, an Experian division that runs, saying that the advertisements  and the Web site did not have adequate disclosure and that the service (free credit report)  was not free UNLESS a consumer purchased credit monitoring services. Experian paid the F.T.C. $950,000 and had to offer refunds to certain consumers. Another $300,000.00 was paid due to violating this agreement. The Federal Trade Commission charged that ads for its "free credit report" continued to fail to disclose adequately that consumers who signed up would be automatically enrolled in a credit- monitoring program and charged $79.95. The FTC alleged that the failure to clearly disclose the enrollment and charges violated their previous settlement.

But ads still run and I haven't haven't seen any commercials or public service announcements directing consumers to the legitimate place to go get their free credit reports. Nor have I seen them advise consumers of the toll-free automated phone number that was established to allow consumers (especially those without computers) access to their free credit reports. Trouble is, not many people are aware of this phone option -or what that number is!

To order you free annual credit reports by phone dial: 877-322-8228. You can order your free credit reports from all three bureaus at once, or stagger them and order one at a time, every few months.

If ordering online...beware. One typo of the url in your browser, can cause you to be whisked off to an impostor site. Additionally, privacy experts and advocates have expressed concerns when ordering credit reports online. The websites' privacy policies are not so consumer friendly and you may be waiving rights to privacy without knowing it. There have also been reports indicating consumers have ended up inadvertently purchasing credit monitoring services, simply by clicking on a wrong link.

If you are trying to order your free credit reports at and are asked for a credit card number, you've landed on a wrong page-back out and start over.

A NY Times article speaks more about this issue;

"The High Cost of a "Free Credit Report!

"...It's what I call a protection racket; the companies are charging you a fee and they're making a promise that it's going to improve your credit, and protect against identity theft, but in fact it does neither," said Edmund Mierzwinski, consumer program director for the United States Public Interest Research Group. "The sites are designed to trick people into taking on overpriced, useless credit monitoring, and they do so by attempting to make it appear as if you're going to get something for free."


For additional info...see a couple of my earlier blogs:

If F-R-E-E Spells 'Free" Why Does it Cost Money to Get That "Free" Credit Report?

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

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