If those commercials for freecreditreport.com have ever sent you running to your computer to order the free annual report that the government says you are entitled to, back the truck up! The reports may not be so free after all!
As a result of an FTC ruling in 2004, consumers are entitled to a free report from each from the three major credit bureaus – Equifax, Experian, and Transunion - each year. Since that time, numerous companies have emerged to supposedly offer the report. FreeCreditReport.com which pulls in customers with amusing commercials, as well as others companies, offers a report but requires you to sign up for a service that may cost $15 or more per month. This includes credit monitoring, potentially a good thing – as long you know what you are getting into. This and other similar sites offer a small window for ordering your report and then being able to cancel without charge. Though FreeCreditReport.com appears to be a reputable company, others may be scam sites that only want your personal information.
The site that offers the truly free reports is AnnualCreditReport.com. Consumers can check all three bureaus at once or stagger the requests over the course of the year to see progress. There is usually some variation among the three bureaus, so ordering from all three each year might be wise. The only report guaranteed to be free with no strings attached is the official AnnualCreditReport.com site.
Once you go to AnnualCreditReport.com, you must choose which bureau you want the report from. You are then sent to one of the three credit bureau site. After entering some information, you have your report within minutes. The free annual service includes the report only, not the score. You can order your score for around $8 or sign up for the credit monitoring service. The lack of a free credit score is an annoying shortcoming of the official site, but, nonetheless, obtaining the basic information without charge is valuable.
As of September 2010, so-called free sites must disclose that they are not offering the free service guaranteed by the FTC.
Questions? Check out the FAQ’s at AnnualCreditReport.com.