Confused over where to get those free credit reports? The FTC wants to hear from you

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Free credit reports -where? When was the last time you saw a television commercial or a public service announcement advising you how to get copies of your free credit reports? And I don't mean those non-stop catchy rhyming jingles singing "F.R.E.E. spells Free". I mean where and how to obtain the no-strings and no-dollars attached, genuinely free credit reports. Never -right? And that's why the FTC wants to hear from you.

Thanks to the Fair and Accurate Credit Transactions Act (FACTA), each of the big three credit reporting agencies (Experian, Equifax and Trans Union) must, when asked, provide every consumer with one free annual credit report-but finding the right place to get them has proven confusing and challenging to consumers. That's because unfortunately, FACTA didn't also mandate that the credit reporting agencies publicize how to go about getting them!

This omission turned out to be a big faux pas and has led to a variety scams and misleading advertisements all touting free credit reports that aren't really free at all-- that is, unless you pay for credit monitoring services or a credit score offered by the company behind the ads.

The FTC has received so many complaints from aggravated consumers that they now want to rectify this problem and change the way these for profit companies advertise their services and products.

The recently passed Credit Card Act of 2009 requires the FTC to issue a rule change that would make advertising for free credit reports less confusing to consumers. In order to accomplish this task, the Federal Trade Commission wants to hear from you -especially if you have a story to share or have been harmed.

It's important for them to get as much consumer feedback as possible. The changes that the FTC is considering include forcing websites to include a separate landing disclosure page that reads:

"This is not the free credit report provided for by Federal law. To get your free report, visit or call 877-322-8228."

Additionally, the rules would require prominent disclosure in all forms of advertising: TV, print and radio.

For several years, consumers have been subjected to nonstop advertising for services that supposedly offer free credit reports. And for just as many years I've been hearing complaints from consumers who report they felt duped into buying services they didn't know they were buying after one way or another they were misdirected to a bogus site.  

Aside from the confusing advertisements, the legitimate site has been a major source of confusion and trouble for many consumers. If consumers are lucky enough to find their way to the legit site, many report difficulties in maneuvering the site and find that one wrong click on an inappropriately placed link can whisk them off to an impostor site.    

Call me crazy, but isn't it reasonable to expect that the official site designated to ensure consumers get their free credit report -also be ad free?  If you agree, be sure to send your comments to the FTC prior to November 30th.

To submit your comments online click here.

Comments made through snail mail can be mailed to Federal Trade Commission, Office of the Secretary, Room H-135 (Annex T), 600 Pennsylvania Ave. NW, Washington, D.C. 20580.

The proposed rules can be found on the site here.

Watch this FTC Spoof Video released earlier this year;

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My credit card was charged several times before I noticed the charges were from a company I hadn't heard of. My bad. When I discovered that it had been charged for a product I didn't purchase, I called them immediately. I wanted them to stop charging my account and I was told I needed to fax them information stating that and proof I was who I claimed to be. Which I did, along with a cc to my Attorney General. I consider myself to be a savvy online shopper and still somehow I ended up caught in their trap and apparently ended up "buying" my free credit report. You are right Denise, why don't we see commercials or even public service announcements advising us of the official place. This is a major loophole that has been overlooked for too long.

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