Tom just received a great offer from his bank. He can receive a free credit report just by peeling off this sticker and affixing it to another part of the same page. That’s right, a free motherloving credit report! Who doesn’t want one of those? Free, you say? Sign me up!
Oh, it also comes with an enrollment in some sort of identity theft protection program for $13 a month.
Looks like Wachovia (a Wells Fargo Company) is now taking its lead from a singing pirate. Just in time for your post yesterday on the CARD Act and its impact on “free” credit reports, I recieved the attached letter from my bank, asking me to simply attach a sticker and return the mailing in the enclosed prepaid, already-addressed envelope to get a Free Credit Report! What could be easier!
Naturally, upon reading the fine print, one finds this little doozy: “Unless I call to cancel during my thirty-day trial, my protection will be automatically continued at the $12.99 monthly credit monitoring fee, or then current monthly fee, debited from my primary Wachovia checking account each month, without my having to do anything further.”
Granted, it’s all laid out for you relatively clearly in the small print, but how is this any different than what FreeCreditReport.com is doing? And why is my bank selling my personal information to a third party for the sole purpose of shadily trying to get me to sign up for a “credit monitoring service” of dubious value? This stinks. The only reason I’ve stayed with super-inconvenient Wachovia while living in New York City is out of loyalty – I used to work for them – but if this is the way they’re doing business now, screw ’em.
We know why they’re doing it—because there’s still a lot of confused or ignorant consumers out there who either don’t know about annualcreditreport.com (the only real source of free credit reports), or who see the phrase “free credit report” and stop looking for alternatives. The sticker gimmick seems particularly silly, and aimed at customers who have an “I just won a contest!” mentality when it comes to offers in the mail.
We don’t know if offers like this one will be covered under the CARD Act, because Wachovia does make it quite clear that there’s going to be an ongoing fee after the first 30 days. It’s nowhere near as misleading as the FreeCreditReport.com commercials, in other words.
That doesn’t change the fact that if you really want to pull your credit reports for free, annualcreditreport.com is the only place where you can do it.