Differentiating Different Agencies Offering Consumer Free Credit Reports

Contrary to popular belief, there is only one website officially recognized by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) that offers a consumer free credit report, and that is Annualcreditreport.com. This website is guaranteed by law to provide you with a free credit history report from all three major credit reporting agencies (Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion) once every year upon request. There are a number of sites, however, that will offer free credit reports in a number of different fashions, though more often than not, they aren’t entirely free.

Other Services

Many sites offer free credit reports with other paid services. For example, they might offer credit monitoring with the promise of informing you if anything negative or suspicious makes its way on your credit report. In the same vein, many sites offer various fraud protection and fraud resolution counseling when you sign up. Be sure to examine all extra services when looking for your free credit report to see what, if anything, you are paying for.

Trial Free Credit Reports

A common tactic for sites advertising a free credit report is to use your annual credit report request from Annualcreditreport.com to send your first free report, and in the process, sign you up as a member of their agency on a trial basis. However, when the trial runs out, if you have not cancelled the membership, you will be subject to any and all fees stated in the terms of service, which are often monthly recurring bills. Be sure to read through all the fine print to catch any and all strings attached to your deal before signing up for a supposedly free credit reporting agency.

Deceptive Websites

As if hidden trial offers and extra paid for services weren’t deceptive enough, it gets worse. Some agencies will actually masquerade as the Annualcreditreport.com website. They usually do this by designing their website to look similar to Annualcreditreport.com and to use similar language and links. Sometimes they will even go so far as to make their URL similar to Annualcreditreport.com, in the hopes that you might misspell the website and go to their website instead.

Other forms of deception include redirecting you to other websites for various offers and deals that you have to pay for. Sometimes you will be asked to sign up for something before being able to receive your free credit report. Other times there are extra services not even necessarily related to your credit report that you may sign up for if you don’t read the fine print. Worse yet, they may redirect you to a site asking for personal information not necessarily required for a credit report, which may then be used against you. This could result in excess charges to your credit or debit cards, and may even turn into a full blown case of identity theft.

For a guaranteed free credit report, the best thing to do is to use the Annualcreditreport.com link from the FTC’s website. Beyond that, keep a sharp eye for any small print before signing any deals, and be wary of agencies asking for information they don’t need.