Next time you see one of the ubiquitous commercials for FreeCreditReport.com, you should also notice an interesting addition: The commercials for this and other companies promising you a free credit report must now include an onscreen message that the federal government offers its own free credit report service. This new message is a result of the Credit CARD Act of 2009 signed by Pres. Barack Obama in May of last year. That act, which took effect on Feb. 22, is designed to protect consumers from deceptive credit card practices. But it also includes a provision mandating the new message on advertisements for services that offer “free” credit reports.
Companies must now make note of the existence of AnnualCreditReport.com in all of their print, radio, online and television advertising. This Web site is run by the nation’s three credit bureaus, Experian, TransUnion and Equifax, and allows consumers to order one free copy of each of their three credit reports every 12 months. The site charges consumers nothing to do this. This is in stark contrast to sites such as FreeCreditReport.com. That particular company, in fact, has been the target of several lawsuits claiming that the credit reports it offers are far from free. To qualify for the free reports from this company, consumers must also enroll in a not-free-at-all credit-monitoring service. Some consumers have sued the company claiming that they were unaware that they were being charged a monthly fee for this service.
Don’t be Tempted
The come-ons from companies such as FreeCreditReport.com are often quite persuasive. They make it seem as if you can lose your home, your job and your car by not ordering a free credit report from them. The truth is, you never need to order a credit report from any site except for AnnualCreditReport.com. Any company that tells you differently is lying.
Experian Should be Ashamed
The most disappointing fact about the FreeCreditReport.com ads is that the company is owned by one of the big three credit bureaus, Experian, which owns AnnualCreditReport.com. The credit bureau should be held to a higher standard. It’s shocking that the company has resorted to such dishonest marketing. Fortunately, avoiding the Experian trap is easy: Go nowhere near FreeCreditReport.com. Sure, you might like the catchy jingles that go with the company’s commercials. You might even think the commercials are clever. That’s fine. But when it’s time to order your free credit report, visit AnnualCreditReport.com instead.