How to Avoid Free Credit Report Scams
You may have heard of your right to get a free credit report each year. So have scammers who'd like nothing more than to trick you out of your money, your personal information, or both. Here are some tips for avoiding a scam when you're trying to order your free credit report.
Your Right to a Free Credit Report
The Fair and Accurate Credit Transactions Act of 2003 gives consumers the right to get a free credit report every year from each of the three credit bureaus. That means, every year, you can get one free credit report from Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion for a total of three free credit reports.
The FTC partnered with the credit bureaus to offer a simple, centralized way for consumers to get these credit reports through annualcreditreport.com. However, imposter sites confuse consumers and trick them into paying for their free credit reports.
One of the most well-known imposter sites is freecreditreport.com. The site's name itself hints that the site offers free credit reports. However, the credit report you get through freecreditreport.com isn't completely free. There are some strings attached, and if you're not careful, you can end up paying to access your credit report.
To get your "free" credit report from freecreditreport.com, you have to sign up for a trial subscription to a credit monitoring service. Signing up for the trial requires your credit card number. If you forget to cancel the subscription before the trial period ends, your credit card will be charged, and you've just paid for that free credit report.
Worse, your credit card will be charged each month until you cancel the subscription. If you're not watching your credit card statement closely, you can end up being charged for months before you realize it's been have been scammed.
In 2005, the World Privacy Forum found 233 free credit report imposter sites, many of which included affiliate links to one of the three credit bureaus. None of the imposters had links to the real site for free credit reports.
How to Avoid Getting Ripped Off
Free credit report scams are tricky and misleading. If you're not careful, you could end up paying a hundred dollars more for your free credit report. Here's how to avoid a scam:
- Type the URL (annualcreditreport.com) directly into your browser, making sure to spell it correctly. Some of the imposter sites take advantage of misspelled URLs.
- Don't enter your credit card number. Accessing your truly free credit report will not require you to enter a credit card number. If you're entering your credit card number, there's a chance the company is looking for a way to charge you in the future.
- Don't sign up for a free trial to any kind of subscription service. You will not have to sign up for anything to receive your free credit report.
- If you sign up for a trial subscription to get your free credit report, make sure you cancel before the trial period ends. That way, your credit card won't be charged.