I clicked on the large bright orange button that said "Get your Free Credit Report & Score!" and was presented with a form. I filled it out. I hesitated for a second when the site asked for my credit card number, which it stated was "required to establish your account," but the site assured me that my "credit card will not be charged during the free trial period." Having done this before (or so I thought), I went ahead and entered the information. A shopping cart receipt indicated that the total was $0.00.When is a free credit report not a free credit report? When it's from freecreditreport.com
I got my credit report, looked it over, and forgot about it. A week later I was looking at my checking account register online and I noticed a $14.95 charge from a company called CIC*Triple Advantage. I didn't recall buying anything from a company with that name, so I entered "CIC*Triple Advantage" into Google. The search results made my eyes bug out of my head. This was the name of the billing entity for freecreditreport.com. The thousands of search results were full of words like "deceptive practices," "scam," "ripoff," "unauthorized billing!" and "beware!" In fact, all the top results were either from people complaining that they'd been conned into signing up for a $14.95 monthly credit monitoring service without their permission, or they were about how to cancel the service.
Mark Frauenfelder is the founder of Boing Boing and the editor-in-chief of MAKE and Cool Tools. Twitter: @frauenfelder. His new book is Maker Dad: Lunch Box Guitars, Antigravity Jars, and 22 Other Incredibly Cool Father-Daughter DIY Projects