Can You Really Get A Credit Report For Free?

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experian-personal-credit-report.jpg I have to admit it.  The company did an excellent job getting the URL into my head.

I don’t know if it was the commercial of the guys in the car with “legs sticking the vinyl and his posse getting laughed at“, or the guy in the restaurant “selling fish to tourists in T-shirts” but they certainly got the message across.

However, I started hearing reports that FreeCreditReport.com is not as free as the commercials say.

So I decided to investigate the claims for myself…

 

Too Good To Be True?

I went to the website and what I found was a complicated agreement that billed you $14.95 each month if you did not cancel the obligatory “credit monitoring membership within the 7-day trial period”.

I recently warned readers about a similar type of sales pitch that is common with infomercials.

The aim with sales pitches such as this is that customers will sign on thinking that they will remember to cancel the service if they don’t like it, or even if they do.  The truth, however is that most people forget about the subscription for several months before they remember to cancel it.

There is also a bit of up-selling involved at the FreeCreditReport.com site, as they offer to give you 3 credit reports and 3 credit scores for $39.95 — plus the opportunity to get an Experian consumer credit score and report for only $14.95.  The latter offer is billed as “the same information lenders see”.  I didn’t want to sign up for the service myself, as I am one of those people who forgets to cancel trial memberships, but I did go to a reliable source to see what others thought.

For starters, I went to Epinions to find out what previous users of the FreeCreditReport.com site thought.  The first thing I found was an old complaint from 2001 that reported a shameful account of the old bait and switch.  Considering the date, I decided to look on.

Here are some other reviews of the “service” and how it works:

 

If you are inclined to discount this information because it is hearsay, consider the fact that the FTC has fined FreeCreditReport.com in recent years for failure to disclose that the free credit reports came with an expensive membership.  (You can read about the 2005 settlement here.)

 

How To Get A Free Credit Report That’s Really Free

In fact, there is a real government website for free credit reports: AnnualCreditReport.com.

According to the Federal Trade Commission:
AnnualCreditReport.com is the ONLY authorized online source for you to get a free credit report under federal law. You can get a free report from each of the three national credit reporting companies every 12 months. Some other sites claim to offer “free” credit reports, but may charge you for another product if you accept a “free” report.

 

AnnualCreditReport.com gives you the information you need to request your credit report by mail or phone.  It gives you the proper form for your state and information about how to request your free credit report.  While the site does not allow you to get an instant report over the Internet, it is indeed free.

More info from the FTC regarding your access to free credit reports.

 

FreeCreditReport.com is not all bad though.  After all, they do have a killer jingle.  In addition, if you are looking for a credit monitoring service, the price isn’t bad.  However, if you just want a free credit report, you can skip all of the hoopla and go to AnnualCreditReport.com instead.

Learn more about the Fair Credit Reporting Act.