Freecreditreport.com is NOT actually free, nor is it related to Annualcreditreport.com, the free credit report that you are entitled to under federal law. So why are people still being tricked into signing up for a credit monitoring service in order to get something that they are entitled to under federal-freaking-law? Because the credit bureaus are linking them to the website and most consumers don’t believe that a major credit bureau would try to trick them. Always read the fine print!
Reader Brian is one such consumer. He clicked through to Freecreditreport.com from a credit bureau website and was later socked with a charge for a credit monitoring service he knew nothing about. Here’s his letter:
A few weeks ago I decided that it was time to do my annual check of my credit report. All of the major credit reporting agencies seem to strong arm you towards http://www.freecreditreport.com.
I went through the sign-up and authentication procedure. As a part of the procedure you have to enter a valid credit card that appears on your report. It’s followed by the usual legalize eye-watering disclaimers.
Last week I checked my current MasterCard bill online. I was greeted by the following entry:
07/28/08 CIC*Triple Advantage 877-4816825 CA $14.95
Not immediately recognizing the company, I called the company and found out that it was an alias for FreeCreditReport.com. After navigating the menu tree I was eventually connected to a woman who seemed to be annoyed that she had to deal with a customer. I asked her about the charge and she started asking far more personal information than was contained in my credit report. When I refused to provide more than the basic information, she relented and insisted that I had signed up for the monthly monitor. She further stated that since I hadn’t cancelled it within the first month (I didn’t know about it until the bill came) I was obligated for a one year membership.
Not one to take this type of thing sitting down, I advised the woman in direct (not offensive) terms that
· I did not knowingly sign up for the service.
· I did not authorize this service
· I do not want this service
· I will not pay for this service
· I will be filing a formal complaint with the AG’s office in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts about their deceptive marketing practices
The woman put me on hold for about five minutes and finally came back and said that the account had been cancelled and that a refund would be forthcoming. As of this morning, approximately a week later, the credit has yet to show up on my credit card statement.
The moral to this story is that freecreditreport.com is a scam set up by the credit reporting agencies. It is not there to fulfill their legal obligation to provide you with your credit reports. It is, instead, a sleazy way of selling their “value-added” services. I think that most people would be afraid to stand up to a reporting agency.
If you’re a regular reader of Consumerist, you may have known about this issue for a long time, (or are the type of person who always reads the fine print, which is very admirable) but most consumers are simply not aware that Freecreditreport.com isn’t the “free credit report” that they’re entitled to by law. What’s more, they implicitly trust the heavily advertised guitar playing loser from the commercials, or the recommendation of a major credit bureau.
Warn your friends. Freecreditreport.com isn’t free.