Free credit reports have become a popular topic over the last few years. To the point of having close to a dozen songs written about a particular website that claims to offer free credit reports.
There are many misleading advertisements, websites, banner ads and even former game show hosts claiming to be able to give you a free copy of your credit report. Many consumers are even receiving offers from their banks and credit card issuers attached to their monthly statements. Many consumers have spent a lot of money to obtain their “free” credit reports.
The Fair and Accurate Credit Transactions (or FACT – isn’t our government clever?) Act of 2003 gives consumers the right to obtain a free copy of their credit report once every twelve months from each of the three nationwide consumer credit reporting companies (Equifax, Experian and TransUnion). After the signing of this law, companies have made a fortune by selling these “free” credit reports – mainly by bundling them with scores or monitoring services.
It is because of this that Congress included additional regulations on free credit reports within the Credit CARD Act of 2009. The new regulation can be broken down into three main parts:
- Any company advertising a free credit report offer must state in those ads that consumers are entitled to a free credit report each year from each of the three credit reporting agencies listed above.
- These ads must also state that the only official website for obtaining your free annual credit reports is AnnualCreditReport.com.
- All radio and television ads must also include the following statement “this is not the free credit report provided for by Federal Law”.
Offers for credit monitoring services and scores (the Federally mandated free credit report does not include your score) are not illegal, but when you are promised a free credit report as a bonus for buying these services, they become extremely misleading.
Please be careful before paying for any service connected to your credit, and consider whether you need all of the bells and whistles or if your true free credit report is enough for you.
Have you ever been mislead by one of these services? Do you take advantage of the ability to see your credit report for free?
Please leave your comments and questions below.