You’ve likely seen the singing pirates talking about getting a free credit report to check out your credit score. When you read the fine print, however, you’ll find that even when it comes to credit reports, there is no such thing as a free lunch. Most of the companies offering these “free credit reports” are not free at all. Now, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) is working even harder to ensure that consumers understand the difference between what is truly a free credit report and what may end up costing them in the end.
According to federal law, consumers are entitled to one free credit report per year. Although many websites such as free-credit-reports.com, offer free credit reports; Consumers can obtain a truly free credit report from each of the three credit reporting agencies – Equifax, Expirian, and Trans Union – at annualcreditreport.com – the only service authorized for this purpose, according to its website. Consumers are also entitled to obtain a free copy of their credit report if they have been denied credit for any reason.
The FTC is starting to crack down on false and misleading advertising that leads consumers to believe that what they are getting is truly free access to their credit reports. Credit reporting bureaus are developing new policies to ensure customers are not getting duped. Credit card legislation requires marketing companies to add warning labels when they are offering any product that is being touted as “free.”
Bait and Switch
The programs advertised as free credit report options typically bring problems to consumers. Primarily, these programs involve registering for a credit monitoring program that comes with a monthly subscription fee. The Federal Trade Commission forewarns consumers that just because a site indicates that it is free, it doesn’t mean it is. Make sure to read the fine print of the terms and conditions before rushing into anything.