Did you miss the original band of friendly, slackerish white dudes who pretended to play ditties about the dangers of poor credit FreeCreditReport.com ads? Yeah, neither did anyone else. But even though they held a nationwide contest to find their current house band two years ago, the magic just wasn’t there. Maybe the new guys weren’t irritating enough. So the old crew is back together to annoy us.
Regular readers of Consumerist know full well that those websites like FreeCreditReport.com and FreeScore.com (you’ll forgive us for not actually linking to them) are not exactly what their names might have you believe. But there are new consumers born every day, so it doesn’t hurt clarifying once again that there is only one place to score your credit reports with no strings attached.
When you get a strongly-worded letter from your bank with big deadlines printed on it, and words like “THIS NOTICE IS REQUIRED BY LAW” and other “RECORDS REVIEW” and other ominous phrases, one might think, “Hey, this is something important I have to do.” Or maybe it’s actually just an offer for a free credit report that you can just toss.
The FTC recently amended the Free Credit Reports Rule to require “certain disclosures to help consumers distinguish between ads for free credit reports that often require them to buy credit monitoring or other services.”
Our friends at FreeCreditReport.com, now required by to change their services by the FTC, plan to rebrand as FreeCreditScore.com. They’re also looking for a new house band, to play a whole new set of insipid and misleading but catchy credit-related ditties. Your band, if you have one, can enter. If you don’t, you can vote.
Between their irritating ads and misleading name, FreeCreditReport.com has been a target of Consumerist’s derision for years. And now the “service,” which was never free to begin with, will actually cost you a dollar to use.
In celebration of the upcoming FTC-mandated drastic changes to “free” credit report advertising and web sites, public radio program Marketplace located the actor and musician who serves as the public face of FreeCreditReport.com in its horrifically catchy ads. That’s when they discovered something that, as they put it, means you will never look at the ads the same way again. The singing spokesdude, Eric Violette, is actually a pretty talented musician, but he isn’t the man singing the jingle. See, the commercials were cast and filmed in Montreal, and Violette has a distinct French accent.
Donny just bought a bunch of credit scores. But they’re all from different companies and none of them are the same. What gives?
Freecreditreport.com is getting class action sued, baby. Their ubiquitous singing ads make it sound like you’ll go their website and get a free credit report, but they don’t tell you that’s only after you sign up for a $14.95 monthly credit monitoring service. “FreeCreditReport.com tells people they will get something for free, and you do, but you have to pay for something else, and there’s not sufficient notice,” said John Balestriere, lead attorney. I agree, so I made up my own parody Freecreditreport song:
Reader Nathan’s wife unfortunately fell for a “Free Credit Report” offer from a TransUnion service called “Zendough.” They say they are being repeatedly billed even after they cancel, and the only customer service contact number they have is staffed by people who can’t help.
It didn’t take long for Intuit to start ruining a great product. They’ve begun upselling Mint.com customers to two “free” credit report sites that are anything but. UPDATE: Turns out Mint was already doing this pre-Intuit. Bully for them.
The problem with annualcreditreport.com—other than its name—is that getting your reports from the site is a little like dealing with GoDaddy: you have to deal with upsells and side-sells at every step. You can indeed get your free credit reports from the site, but you’ll also have to keep turning down other offers from the three participating bureaus. Hell, there are even ads (sorry, “sponsor” links) on the home page, the one place where you’d hope for the least consumer confusion.
Almost half of all employers use credit reports to judge job applicants, even though credit histories have no relation to job performance. Personal finance goofs are only relevant for jobs that deal directly with money—cashiers, account managers, and the like. For everyone else, negative credit reports keep otherwise capable people from securing a job to help avoid further financial problems. So why do so many companies still ask for credit reports?