Obtaining Free Credit Reports

You can always check your credit reports from all three bureaus. However, there are several websites that attempt to charge consumers for receiving their credit reports. People have noticed an increase in the number of these sites, and it is becoming more difficult to differentiate between free ones.

Free Credit Reports

Everyone is entitled to receive free credit reports once every 12 months from the three credit bureaus. Experian, Equifax and TransUnion are the main credit reporting agencies, and each one produces a separate report that does not always match with the others.

The Websites

It would be faster to request the credit reports online, but there is an enormous number of websites that claimed to offer free credit reports with credit scores. Many of these sites boldly announced that the information they provided was completely free, and this was not the truth.

In general, the websites fell into two types of categories. Some were simply phishing attacks that had no intention of providing any kind of credit reports. They were created to get personal and financial information. The second category included websites that were actually capable of providing legitimate credit reports, but they included a large fee and sometimes had useless services as part of the package.

The Tactics

Most of the sites lure consumers with statements of free credit reports. It is often difficult to see the actual cost of ordering the reports because the websites only provide details once personal information has been entered. The biggest warning sign is that they will usually request credit card information. The fine print reveals that the free credit report actually carries a heavy price tag. Usually, the companies will use the credit card information to charge a fee for the reports. In addition, they will enroll consumers into monitoring services or membership programs with ongoing monthly charges. The fees vary from $15 to $30 a month.

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) only endorses one website, AnnualCreditReport.com, for consumers interested in obtaining their free credit reports. This is not a commercial site. Instead, Equifax, TransUnion and Experian maintain it to comply with the Fair and Accurate Credit Transactions (FACT) Act. The FTC has lists filled with thousands of complaints about other companies and websites

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