When is a free credit report not a free credit report? When it's from freecreditreport.com

Discuss

100 Responses to “When is a free credit report not a free credit report? When it's from freecreditreport.com”

  1. kengor says:

    Well, if you give me your credit card number, I can cancel that for you.

  2. wolfwitch says:

    I got bit by these guys a long time ago.

    I thought the FTC was going after them several years ago- I guess they decided not to for some reason.

  3. A New Challenger says:

    *Offer applies with enrollment in triple advantage

    The only “free” website I ever trusted was the dearly departed freegames.org (later GameHippo.)

  4. Anonymous says:

    i also got ripped off by these so call free cerdit .com jerkoff. this is a scam and i dont think people should offer to help you if they are only going to still your money.i call to have my money returned and the rep, said he cant because already canceled my so cald account. but that was only after i notice the money missing after 30 mins; free credit dose not help you it f**k you…sign unhappy …

  5. Ugly Canuck says:

    I’d hate to get a bad credit report for stiffing these guys…

  6. Anonymous says:

    @ #19:

    It has been there for a while at least. I went to check my credit report about 6 months ago and not knowing how to go about doing so I started with freecreditreport.com unfortunately because their annoying commercials had worked on me. I saw that box immediately informing me the free service would end up costing me money, then saw the link they provide to annualcreditreport.com so I went there and got my free reports with no hassle. Freecreditreport.com actually helped me from being scammed.

  7. Timothy Hutton says:

    RE: #44 Anonymous said:

    A lot of you guys took a look at the front page and fell for part II of this scam hook, line and sinker. You see, when these sites advertise they provide links to a signup page that either does not warn or warns you in very unclear terms about continued charges to your credit card. The surreptitious charges are part I of the scam.

    Can that be true? Wait, let me sing that jingle “free credit report dot com slash sign up page” – you’re right! (I never noticed that before) It was so obvious, but I never realized they actually directed me to a sign-in page. Thank you anonymous poster, you’ve saved me from a horrible mistake!

  8. mattmoore says:

    The same thing happened to me so I called and politely but persistently complained. They refunded half of the amount charged to my credit card. I filed a complaint with the BBB and I got the rest back.

    Friends don’t let friends use freecreditreport.com

  9. ralph says:

    Stupid is as stupid does…

  10. Matt Staggs says:

    Yikes! Hope you won’t be selling fish to tourists in t-shirts now.

  11. Takuan says:

    is that technically mail fraud? Where’s the Federal Bureau of Idiots?

  12. Manooshi says:

    Very practical advice. Thanks for posting, Mark.

  13. TJ S says:

    Fast-talking guy on commercial says “Offer applies with enrolment in triple advantage”.

  14. kkennedy says:

    If you’re worried about mistyping or using the “wrong” service, you can actually go to annualcreditreport.com via a link from this FTC page: http://www.ftc.gov/freereports

    It’s only a couple of clicks from the ftc.gov homepage (credit & loans, then ‘free annual credit reports’). I find it easier to remember the ftc.gov site than annualcreditreport vs. freecreditreport vs. yearlycreditscore vs. yada yada…

  15. kengor says:

    Seriously…

    THIS IS RIGHT ON THE FRONT PAGE, GUYS:

    “IMPORTANT INFORMATION

    When you order your free report here, you will begin your free trial membership in Triple AdvantageSM Credit Monitoring. If you don’t cancel your membership within the 7-day trial period†, you will be billed $14.95 for each month that you continue your membership.”

  16. arbitraryaardvark says:

    This scam advertises on many apparently legit web pages, such as yahoo. While their site explains that it isn’t really free, the ads do not. The ads are lies, false advertising,and somebody should sue somebody until it stops.
    freecr.. is owned by one of the big 3 credit bureaus, i forget which. They have scammed 20 million people so far.
    I got hit the other day. I took my car to midas for a free brake inspection. While in their shop, the brakes broke, and they charged me $250 to fix them to the point they were when I brought it in.
    Calling company HQ hasn’t worked so far; I’ve requested a letter, and when I get their letter I’ll follow up with mine, etc.

  17. arkizzle says:

    How did you think freecreditreport were paying for all those TV commercials..?

    Something for ‘free’ as long as you enroll in some supposedly valuable service they’re offering. How many times do you need to see these kind of offers to realize there’s not much in life that is truly FREE.

    And yet google (et al) seems to both turn a profit and provide great free products.. strange.

  18. Anonymous says:

    So have any readers actually used annualcreditreport.com? I’m still skeptical, and would to hear from anonymous people I’ve never met before trying it out.

  19. foobar says:

    Some simple advice:

    Do not give out your credit card number, unless you want it to be charged.

    Do not give out your telephone number, unless you want to be called.

    Do not give out your email address, unless you want to be emailed.

  20. Strophe says:

    #38 Bekah: You summarized what I was thinking better than I could articulate.

    @Everyone who got on a high horse because someone made a mistake and mentioned it for your benefit: Calm down.

    #57 Troll removal in 4…3….2…..

    Sorry you had to fall on this grenade for us, Mark, but your efforts won’t go in vain!

  21. Teller says:

    Taking one for the team. Good man, Mark.

    Technically, the “free” must mean visiting freecreditreport.com is free.

  22. cycle23 says:

    thanks Kengor, I was going to do that.

  23. creeto says:

    My friend wrote a song about this.
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nIO9gs7pC88

  24. xzzy says:

    I like how the link claims the “fine print” was “hidden” in a blue box with blue text. I just had to visit the site to see if it was as bad as he suggested.. and rolled my eyes. What I found was a large box filled with easy to read text that quite clearly explained what would happen.

    I was sympathetic towards the guy until I saw that.

    Anything on the internet with “free” in the description is going to be anything but. It’s an instant red flag that you better read every single bit of text you can find before agreeing to anything.

  25. phlavor says:

    Good to get out there but I got bit by this one a month or so ago. And I’m like the scam smelling master and stuff.

    Their big trick is that you have to call them to cancel. Like on the telephone! During normal business hours even.

  26. sirdook says:

    Yes, it’s ok to call your not-at-all free service ‘freecreditreport.com’ and advertise under that name, so long as you clearly state on the main page that you’re not at all free. Just because it is possible, and even easy when you’re on your guard, to avoid the scam doesn’t mean it isn’t a scam. Everyone knows that 3 Card Monty is a scam – it doesn’t therefore stop being a scam. These sites are purposefully designed to mislead.

    What’s really objectionable is that these companies can work this way at all. If you go digging through someone’s garbage, collect their personal information, then send them a letter saying ‘For $15 a month we’ll make sure the information is correct and stop selling it to anyone who asks for it’ you’d be arrested for extortion. But apparently if you do it for everyone in the country all at once, it’s ok.

    These credit reporting agencies exist solely in virtue of selling our private information. Then they have the gall to try to squeeze money out of us for the privilege of not having that information abused. Thanks, but no thanks.

  27. mellowknees says:

    Good thing to post. It really infuriates me that freecreditreport.com got a URL that’s so close to the government site (annualcreditreport.com). I occasionally teach financial management classes, and in each course I almost always have one participant (or more) who has been duped by this site (or others like it).

  28. djangofan says:

    I dont agree with this article.

    A free credit report does NOT mean you get a credit score with it. If you want the score you have to pay $$$ and so you might as well go with freecreditreport.com because i believe you get a 3-way score with the fee you pay.

  29. Anonymous says:

    Seems like that little blue box was probably tacked on sometime after the site had been up for a while. Now I have no way to prove this… but most sites offering a service won’t link you directly to another site that does the exact same thing as them… but for free.

    ‘ConsumerInfo.com, Inc. and Freecreditreport.com are not affiliated with the annual free credit report program. Under a new Federal law, you have the right to receive a free copy of your credit report once every 12 months from each of the three nationwide consumer reporting companies. To request your free annual report under that law, you must go to http://www.annualcreditreport.com.’

    Maybe it wasn’t there when Mark checked?

  30. Takuan says:

    gadgetgav: you’re a douche.

  31. P1rat3 says:

    I’m thinking of starting my own site and service:

    http://www.luckycreditcard.com

    People enter their credit card number, expiry date and if the combination is a “lucky” one, I…err…they, get a prize!

    Any takers?

    :)

  32. Anonymous says:

    I got my report from them. Immediately afterwards I emailed the company and asked them if, after my free credit report, I was signed up for some convenient service that was going to automatically charge my credit card. Essentially the response was yes, so I called in and canceled. I’ve been burned by a similar scheme before. I miss my un-jaded self.

  33. demidan says:

    You can get an actual FREE credit report from Esperion, the company that gives you the “free” report. I found that out after getting bit, (and not asking my wife first).
    They did refund my money after a couple weeks but twas a pain in but.

  34. dbarak says:

    I always thought Mark was smarter than this. Seriously.

  35. Anonymous says:

    Or you could get in good with your local credit bureau and have them run your credit for you. It cost me a whole dollar.

  36. StudioRobot says:

    To everyone who thinks this isn’t a scam:

    I WAS CHARGED $15/mo. BY TRIPLE ADVANTAGE WITHOUT SIGNING UP FOR ANYTHING. SOMETIMES MORE THAN ONCE A MONTH.

    I use my credit card online MAYBE once a year. And i know my credit is great (see online transactions once a year), so I couldn’t give 2 shits about this kind of service…no need for me to consider signing up.

    They are into way shadier shit than this FCR.com thing.

  37. ErikO23 says:

    i complained to the BBB and the California attorney general.. got a full description from the CA AG about what those jerks were up to..

    shortly there after, i got all my money back from them.. every dime they took out of my account.

  38. Anonymous says:

    I actually was sort of scammed by these guys, too – But when I got to the ” put in your credit card number” I got p.o.ed and went back to the website that directed me there and complained (I believe I may actually have said, “what part of free does the credit card come in on?”)
    I then forgot about it, figuring that I’d never hear from them again, but lo and behold about a week later, I got a -surprise- mailed credit report, free- from the company.
    I’m just sayin’

  39. Slicklines says:

    Actually all three companies that score credit in the US are required by law to give out one free credit report every year. The real issue is that their data collecting and non-transparent lordship over our lives should be flat-out illegal.

  40. Anonymous says:

    Today when I tried to call and cancel my freecreditreport.com membership, the lady offered to cut my membership price in half- to $7.49 per month, for 12 months. Does anyone know anything about that? She said I was a “preferred member”- why, because I’ve been a member for 1.5 months? Doesn’t add up.

    It seemed really shady, but no matter how much I told her I just wanted my membership cancelled, she persisted. Since my account will be billed tomorrow, I’m going to see if it’s really 7 bucks out of curiosity, but either way I’m calling back tomorrow- hopefully I will get someone less stubborn who will actually cancel my membership.

  41. Drew from Zhrodague says:

    I also have not ever been able to get my credit report from ACR. I get a message about having already done this within the year. They can all go to hell.

  42. Takuan says:

    first google page showing them as scammers, we should amplify that.

  43. matuszek says:

    I also had trouble remembering which site was which, until they thoughtfully provided a catchy jingle (eff are ee ee spells free, credit report dot com bay bee).

    Now I just remember that the one that has the song, and the actors, and the commercials on prime-time television — yeah, that’s the one that expects to make a profit.

  44. grimc says:

    @#11

    So have any readers actually used annualcreditreport.com? I’m still skeptical, and would to hear from anonymous people I’ve never met before trying it out.

    I have, just this year. It’s basically a site that links to each of the three big credit reporting agencies. Two of them allow you to get your report online; a third requires you to fill out a form and send it in. As somebody above noted, the Big 3 are required by law to give you a free report once a year if you request it. Annualcreditreport.com is just an easy way to go about it.

    Their logo is on the freecreditreport website, but it should be noted that the whole thing is a marketing trick by Experian, basically conning people.

  45. IWood says:

    If you don’t want to use annualcreditreport.com, you can also get free reports directly from the 3 agencies:

    http://www.experian.com/
    http://www.transunion.com/
    http://www.equifax.com/

    Note that this is for the annual free report that they are obligated by Federal law to give you.

    You never have to give out a credit card number to get that report. They will try to charge you for FICO scores and “credit protection” services. But the reports are free.

    I get the full set every year from https://www.annualcreditreport.com/ with no problems. Note the “s” in “https.”

  46. bobhughes says:

    how can it be free if i gotta hear a literal f’king song & dance about it every damned commercial break, every station?

    i could not be less tempted to visit a website.

  47. kengor says:

    Yeah StudioRobot, TRIPLE ADVANTAGE has been around for awhile and had their name attached to a bunch of “free” shit. Once in a while I’ll get a “check” from my bank for $5 or so, with fine print on the back about how cashing this check will auto sign me up for their service.

    Gotta read the fine print when people offer you free stuff.

  48. Wingo says:

    Besides being scam artists, these guys should be arrested solely based on their horrible commercials. I get that obnoxiously infectious ear-worm of a jingle stuck in my head for days when I hear it.

    ♪♫ “Freeeeeeee credit-report DOT commm”♫♪

    Goddamnit. Here we go again…

  49. akbar56 says:

    Not only does this suck, their commercials on tv are atrocious.
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PZkLj8oo8CM

  50. Johnny Cat says:

    Gah, yes Wingo. That “band” makes me want to punch barbed wire.

    I do annualcreditreport each year on my birthday, and it’s sweet.

  51. SJS says:

    Oh Irony, I signed up for this just today.

    But, they sent an email where it very clearly stated I would be charged if I did not call and cancel. I called and canceled– now I just hope I don’t get charged!

  52. Anonymous says:

    I also consider myself pretty savvy and fell for this under the same circumstamces as Mark having goten a free report in the past but not remembering the site. Luckily whenever I am asked for a credit card online I get a temporary Shopsafe account number from my credit card company even if it is a trusted site. All three of the credit cards I use offer a similar service. In this case I requested a temporary number and and had it authorized for $1 and expiring in 2 months. I was surprised to see a charge for $1 several days later since it was supposed to be free but at least I didn’t get hit for $14.95 and have to hassle with getting it back. Using the temporary numbers makes me feel much more secure and I recommend you check it out for yourself.

  53. Takuan says:

    didn’t I hear freecreditreport.com was a phishing site?

  54. Anonymous says:

    Haha. “Rule the web” indeed.

    :)

  55. Lea Hernandez says:

    I used these guys for a fast report, too, to make sure our insurance wasn’t checking on our credit (a big no-no, but they’d already demonstrated that wasn’t really an obstacle for them).

    When I tried to call to cancel right after the first charge, I was pressured to keep it until just before the next one. Because the sales pitch was so repellent, I avoided calling. After I’d lost $45 because I was a weenie, I called and said “I CAN’T AFFORD IT.” And they cancelled it.

  56. Reverend Loki says:

    As many have stated, you are entitled to one (1) free credit report per annum from all three credit reporting agencies. However, I think it’s important to point out that, if I recall correctly, you are also entitled to a free credit report from any agency each and every time you are denied credit based upon a report from that agency.

  57. teeman says:

    Geez-
    I have been using free annual credit report for years – at least 5+ – I really didn’t think this was a secret any more…

    Oh well – it is a lot like those “free” coupon outfits or “free” insurance – it may be free for 30 days – but unless you are very careful, you will pay.

  58. Mark Frauenfelder says:

    Gadgetgav: congratulations on having never made a dumb mistake in your adult life. You must be a very special person.

  59. Anonymous says:

    Is there a service like this for Canadians?
    (not the scam one, the real one)

  60. The Rizz says:

    Just as a side note to all of you who are complaining about how hard it is to get them to refund your money (have to call during business hours, only giving you half back, etc.):

    There’s a number conveniently located right on the back of the credit card you used on their site. Use that number any time of the day or night and you’ll have no problems getting your money back.

  61. Mark Frauenfelder says:

    dbarak@22: “I always thought Mark was smarter than this. Seriously.”

    I’m an idiot. Generally happy, but an idiot nonetheless.

  62. Anonymous says:

    These people did the same thing to me, freecreditreport.com is a total scam, they charged me 25.99 to use there service, I agreed to no such thing. I was told that I would be charged 14.99 if I did not cancel in 6 days, I cancelled my subscription in 4 days and they still charged me. It is impossible to get through to a supervisor. They will not refund your money without sending a letter to there fraud department. I think there fraud department should investigate themselves. DO NOT USE THIS SERVICE!!!!

  63. Phikus says:

    I had a similar thing happen from match.com:

    Some friends of mine, a happy couple, met through match.com and when I became single last year, they recommended it to me, so I tried it. (I know, sounds like a commercial but it’s true.) I posted a profile and started dating a bit, paying the basic $35.00 minimal payment for one month $37.30 including tax.) You can make a profile for free, but if you want to email anyone, you have to sign up for a package from 1-6 months, with the 6 months being cheaper per month, but over $100 in one pop. I was cautious, having never done this before, so I signed on for the single month package.

    I met a girl after 3 weeks that I hit it off with instantly. (Turns out we were childhood friends growing up on the same street!) We both decided pretty quickly to date monogamously and took our profiles down within the single month that we had paid for. I thought that would be the end of it, since we were clearly not using their services anymore; no longer allowing our profiles to be viewed or logging on or corresponding with anyone through match.com.

    A little over a month goes by and I notice I was charged another two times (again at $37.30 per month) to my debit card by match.com! I had received no notification that they were going to keep charging me, and clearly had only signed up for their “single month package.” I called them and complained and got them to reverse one of the charges (the one that had gone through that day), but since it had been 31 days since the first additional charge, they said they could not help me further but would forward my request to their billing dept. and I would hear back from them sometime in the future via email. No, I could not talk to a billing rep. directly (this from a “supervisor.”) They said they have no further path for escalation.

    Immediately after the call I receive this email (as well as, now, an after-the-fact notice that they had renewed my membership w/o my consent.)

    > Dear Member,
    >
    > For your convenience, we automatically renew your subscription each time it expires, freeing you from the tedious task of manually re-subscribing each month while still guaranteeing your original, low subscription rate. Our records do not indicate that you resigned your subscription prior to your accounts expiration date. We are happy, however, to issue you a refund in the amount of $37.30 and flag your account as Do Not Renew, thus preventing any future billing. Please be advised that the refund could take up to 10 days to appear on your statement.
    >
    > Thank you,
    >
    > Jim S.
    >
    > Match.com Member Resolutions Team

    I didn’t think that, since people can have a profile up for free, I would need to take an extra step to “resign my subscription” to stop them from billing me. After all, I’m sure people meet and decide they might want to try dating someone for a while and not receive contact from people through match.com, yet leave their options open to reactivate at some point in the future withour re-creating their profile, right?

    In the end I had to threaten legal action in writing, but they begrudgingly refunded the other unauthorized charge as well, several days later. My new girlfriend was maxed out on the credit card she had used by the time they tried to bill her again, so they simply canceled her membership entirely. It might have been in the fine print somewhere that they would auto-renew, but it still seems pretty damn misleading to me. They could simply have sent an email reminder to renew and I would have found it far less “inconvenient” or “tedious” receiving their spam than it was try wrangle a refund out of them for what they should not have changed me in the first place. Clearly they keep track of when you are active in their system, so it seems to me they are deliberately taking advantage of the fact that most people don’t keep a close eye on such things, so they make extra money hand over fist. I would have thought, with what they charge for basically an automated system, that they would not need to resort to such tactics, but it is far more lucrative, it would seem, for them to do business this way than to be completely up front.

    So in short, I would still recommend their services, after all I did quickly and happily see real results (especially over e-harmony, which I understand is a Christian organization) albeit with the caveat that you should make sure to completely cancel your subscription to avoid re-billing. I hope this helps someone avoid the hassle I experienced with match.com’s shady auto-renew policy.

    CREETO: Pure awesomesauce!

  64. J France says:

    Anything, online or otherwise, with “free” in it should be viewed with extreme doubt and caution.

  65. spinlock says:

    I did the exact same thing but freecreditreport.com refunded my money when I filed a report with the better business bureau. The bbb was super helpful. Here’s the irony though. before they shut it off freecreditreport.com sent me a credit warning that someone opened a credit card in my name.

  66. Anonymous says:

    The AnnualCreditReport.com website is only accessible through ISPs (Internet Service Providers)
    located within the United States and its territories.

    Apparently, as an overseas US citizen, I can’t access my credit report directly…

  67. matguy says:

    My wife and I got signed up for that site when applying to rent a house. As we were filling out paperwork the Landlord said she needed us to supply a credit report. I don’t know about anyone else, but that’s not something we ever had to supply, any other landlord or rental agency always ran their own checks. Anyway, she pointed us to freecreditreport.com. She said she uses it all the time and never has any problems and we were rushed, so we filled it out quickly and next month my statement showed two $29 charges on the same day from what were obviously the same company, but with slightly different names and phone numbers. Checked my online banking and two new ones are already there for the next month.

    I call to get it canceled and they were fairly nice and canceled the first one and quickly started to say bye and I had them hold on and check the other one. After being on hold for a while she came back and said she’s taken care of that one too now. I also asked if there were any others that may show on my account, another hold and she came back and said all are canceled now.

    I’m 99% sure that if I hadn’t gone through the extra steps I would have continued to have some charges come in. Oh, and since I caught it at the beginning of the cycle, before the second month of “service” had started I got the refunds for the second month of service.

    Basically, the “free” credit report cost me $60. I almost wonder if the gets any referral $ from that, but I’d almost rather give her the benefit of the doubt and be blissfully ignorant.

  68. Anonymous says:

    You DID get a free credit report. It’s the monthly credit check service that is not free.

  69. Bekah says:

    There are some really lovely community minded comments here here ;)
    Just a very quick test for sociopathic behaviour:
    When a person slips over on a patch of ice and turns to those behind them and says “be careful there is ice there” the correct respose is
    a) Oh thanks for the warning, I hope you are ok
    b) That ice is obvious to everyone what were you thinking!
    c) Geeez I thought you were smarter than that

  70. FreakCitySF says:

    But can I get my FICO score free online? or somewhere in California? I just saw my credit summary but it was pointless.

  71. Takuan says:

    actually judge Judy does pretty well sum up the state of American “justice”.

  72. Timothy Hutton says:

    When is a free credit report not a free credit report?

    When you wait more than seven days to cancel?!

    Seriously, this company (at least when I checked today, after readong Mark’s tease about his PC.COM article) goes out of it’s way to direct you to an alternate, free source for your credit reports. From their website:

    ConsumerInfo.com, Inc. and Freecreditreport.com are not affiliated with the annual free credit report program. Under a new Federal law, you have the right to receive a free copy of your credit report once every 12 months from each of the three nationwide consumer reporting companies. To request your free annual report under that law, you must go to http://www.annualcreditreport.com.

    Imagine if Microsoft did the same thing, and on their website included a note that:

    While Microsoft will charge you for you a one-time charge of $129 for your download of Microsoft’s Windows XP Professional with Service Pack 3, you can get an alternate Operating System from Canonical Ltd. called Ubuntu 8.10 that will likely satify your personal computing needs, run more efficently on older equipment and costs you nothing beyond connectivity charges to download an install ISO file. You can find Ubuntu 8.10 at http://www.ubuntu.com/

    As Mark said, he was an idiot – at least when he got involved with Freecreditreport.com ;^)

  73. Anonymous says:

    EQUIFAX isn’t so hot either. I had been paying for their credit monitoring service for a while, but decided to cancel. I canceled via email, got a confirmation # and email. Then they charged me the next month. I called them to remind them I cancelled. They apologized and promised to refund the last month. Then they charged me for another month instead. I eventually had to file a dispute with the credit card their automatic billing came out of.

    It was bloody ironic that a company whose raison d’etre is to protect me from unauthorized credit card charges, was guilty of unauthorized credit card charges.

  74. Manooshi says:

    Lol @ Mark. Yes, we are all idiots, indeed. Cheers to being a happy idiot!

    Dude, speaking of ‘free’ internet scams… on a more perverted note: I knew a dude who thought “Adult Friend Finder” would get him free p*ssy. It didn’t happen. Any rudimentary search on the internet turns up articles explaining how AFF is actually a huge nation-wide “escort service” misrepresenting itself as a “free swinger” site. The prostitutes, ahem, excuse me, I mean, the ‘swinger chicks’, do not ‘put out’ for free, and the pics to lure desperate dudes in are actually of various porn models/actresses.

    So beware of “free” credit reports and/or p*ssy from teh nets people! Especially in this age of identity theft and STDs!

  75. pentomino says:

    The Encyclopedia Britannica guy needs to beat up the freecreditreport.com guy.

  76. Ohhhsnap says:

    I still use Freecreditreport.com.

    When you sign up, they automatically enroll you in their Triple Advantage Program for $14.95 a month. They warn you of this.

    Still, I was unhappy and I called to cancel it. They offered me a way better deal and I took it.

    And, believe it or not, Triple Advantage has been pretty useful for me.

  77. Anonymous says:

    A lot of you guys took a look at the front page and fell for part II of this scam hook, line and sinker. You see, when these sites advertise they provide links to a signup page that either does not warn or warns you in very unclear terms about continued charges to your credit card. The surreptitious charges are part I of the scam.

    Then when you complain to the FTC or BBB they are pointed to the front page that lays everything out neatly and clearly. The oversight agency (and some commentators here, *ahem*) conclude that the mark (heh) was just negligent. Part II.

    There have been some ringtone companies pulling the exact same scam lately.

  78. consideredopinion says:

    First obviously painful principle to learn and live by:

    ANY PRODUCT OR SERVICE that is paying for TV advertisement is operating on volume, and probably for a profit. It’s not ‘free’ and you probably won’t receive quality product or service.

  79. lark bunting says:

    There are several other sites that will give you all three bureaus’ reports as part of a free trial, identitygurd.com, creditchecktotal.com (same format as freecreditreport.com, but you actually get all three reports free instead of just Experian). Equifax.com even runs a promotion for new accounts that will give you a free trimerge for free with enrollment in their monitoring service.

    @25, you are completely right. To make the situation worse, Experian has just stopped allowing consumers to view their FICO scores by pulling consumer reports. The only way to know your Experian FICO score is to have a financial institution pull it, which puts a hard inquiry on your credit and lowers the score. Instead, Experian will let you access your “PLUS” score (a preprietary scoring model created by Experian) through their site which is in no way connected to the FICO scoring model. I’ve seen differences of 100 points between PLUS scores and FICO scores. Completely useless and knowingly misleading.

    I work with people that deal with the credit bureaus and collection companies on a daily basis, and the amount of misinformation and confusion among my clients about what these companies do and the role they play in our lives as US citizens is astounding. The fact that 9 out of 10 people think they need to go to freecreditreport.com to get their annual credit reports, instead of the FTC sponsored annualcreditreport.com, is somewhat humorous.

    I’m going to start a company called “Super Free Fun Voting”, market the hell out of it and set up a $15 tollbooth at the end of every voting line in America in 2012.

    Eh, maybe not. I’d probably get arrested or something.

  80. Mark Frauenfelder says:

    Thanks, Bekah! That’s nice of you to say.

    I am indeed an idiot for using freecreditreport.com, along with thousands of others who were scammed like I was.

  81. Anonymous says:

    I got burned by these guys over the holiday break. I needed a credit report fast to get an apartment I wanted. It’s crap like this that makes money without creating value that’s lead our economy down the toilet. I hope they wind up in jail.

  82. Anonymous says:

    I had gone through a couple of months with those charges .The following website helped me get my money back.

    http://www.knowzy.com/Personal_Finance/Credit/Credit_Monitoring_Is_A_Rip_Off-StepByStep-Canceling_CIC_TripleAdvantage.htm

  83. Anonymous says:

    Thank you for posting this to warn folks about this “service.” Their marketing, obviously targeted to young people, gives the impression of a free and legitimate service. How can they advertise something “free” when it includes enrollment in a fee-based program? I had never looked at my credit report before getting bitten by this, so I did not know my credit card info was NOT required as part of the credit check. In any case, I’m glad you clarified this for the readers so as to prevent more frustration in the future!

  84. Oshkosh John says:

    Seriously, who bites on things like this any more? Frankly I am glad for the existence of unsophisticated consumers, sometimes less-kindly referred to as “rubes,” because then the scammers will go after the easy meat instead of bothering me.

  85. Intense says:

    While freecreditreport.com is an obvious scam (see their “about us” page, where they disclose “FreeCreditReport.com part of a family of online consumer credit reporting sites belonging to ConsumerInfo.com, Inc., an Experian® company. ConsumerInfo was founded in 1995 to give consumers quick, easy, and inexpensive access to their credit histories,” I have also found that annualcreditreport.com also a bit of a frustrating scam, in that, on this website which is run collectively be all three major credit bureaus (Experian, TransUnion, and Equifax), when twice in the last year I used this site to try to obtain my federally mandated “free annual credit report,” and with each service on this site, laboriously filled out page after page of personal data for each separate service, when I got to the end for each service, and clicked the button for my credit reports, each time I got a varying negative reply, such as one saying it was having some unidentified and unresolvable problem processing my data and was unable to produce an online response or report, another said I had already signed up for their pay service (?!?), and had to log in with my (nonexistent) account name and password, and another gave a similar but slightly different response, and still no online report from each of these “services” twice, then an interesting offer was made: I could sign up with a credit card to more easily process or expedite my request, or I could go to yet another page, which didn’t always load (and each service requires a separate request) for a blank form that I would have to download or copy, printout, and fill out by hand, mail in, and in some indeterminate amount of time, would eventually get a printout back by mail of my credit report.

    Oh, and if I wanted my FICO score, or related services, I could get any of the above online, but I would have to pay for their services.

    To me, this is a violation of the spirit and intent of the law, and obviously if any one of the three major credit bureaus wanted to comply with the law, and provide an actually free annual credit report, they could easily do so online, but in fact do not, at least in my repeated experience and attempts to do so. The hassle of going through the snail mail route, and being told only at the end of each service’s individual multi-page process that for various reasons, they could not comply seems to be an obvious form of bait and switch, especially when coupled with the “oh, you want that online, well pay us for it first” come ons.

    There ought to be a law. Anyone know if this sleazy routine actually violates the law, or are they in compliance by forcing someone who actually wants a free credit report to go the snail mail waiting game?

  86. urza9814 says:

    They say right in their commercials, “Offer applies with enrollment in triple advantage.”

  87. Anonymous says:

    I’ve been using annualcreditreport.com ever since it started. I don’t get my credit score, I ignore all the offers, at least one of the agencies require you to create an account, but at the end, I am able to access my credit reports from all 3 of them without having to pay any fees. I print to PDF, make a hardcopy, skim over each one, and then repeat the process a year later.

    They do prevent you from getting your free credit report if it hasn’t been a year since the last time you accessed it though.

  88. Nasty says:

    I’ve never had a credit card, but I did try to look at my report at FCR.com years ago. Dodged that bullet, sounds like.

    So just for fun, I tried getting my report from all three of the places on ACR.com…and none of them could give me anything online. Experian wanted me to print stuff out and mail it to them..but seriously..fuck that.

  89. Jim in Florida says:

    Ok so I went to http://www.annualcreditreport.com the FREE credit report site and was just charged $11.00 by TransUnion. I could not see anyway around the charges, web site just runs around in circles, they never mention the word FREE because it isn’t FREE.
    It has been five years since I last accessed the site and at that time I did get a FREE report.

  90. sleze says:

    HelloOOO CHARGEBACK!

  91. dbarak says:

    @#35 posted by Mark Frauenfelder

    Well, I did buy a bridge once…

  92. sirdook says:

    @Oshkosh – Congratulations on being highly vigilant at all times; sometimes the rest of us get busy or tired or distracted and we fall for stuff, even if we’re generally smart and cautious people, and even if we usually know better. But yes, let’s just roll over and accept that people are allowed to lie to our face, so long as nobody should really believe their shit anyway.

    (For what it’s worth, I didn’t fall for this one, but I’m also not a sociopath. See this earlier comment. http://www.boingboing.net/2009/02/20/when-is-a-free-credi.html#comment-417696 )

  93. Shane says:

    I think rather than giving Mark shit, we should realize that even savvy people get had once in a while and keep our inner snark in check a little bit the next time our mom or crazy aunt or idiot brother sends us a “true” link about how cell phones can pop popcorn or sign up some service like recharging your plasma tv. ;)

    I did learn from this conversation thread that a lot less people than I thought know or realize what they have available to them legally as consumers in terms of the annual free credit report, etc…

    Kudos to Mark for gracefully eating the egg on his face. We’ve all been there. :)

  94. SamSam says:

    To those like Anonymous #19 who wonder if the great big box on the first page outlining the terms was only added after this post: a quick browse of archive.org shows this not to be the case.

    That big box has been on the front page since the very first snapshot in 1999.

    The only interesting thing is how the rates have changed:

    Sep ’99: 30-day trial, $5 a month after that
    Jan ’06: 30-day trial, $12.95
    Jun ’07: 30-day trial, $14.95
    Feb ’08: 7-day trial, $14.95

    I’ll bet that the shift from 30-day to 7-day did more for their bottom line than tripling the monthly fee did.

  95. Anonymous says:

    does anyone have an online version of the very first freecreditreport.com tv commercial going back to 1999

  96. GadgetGav says:

    BoingBoing has just gone down in my estimation. I mean there’s the public service aspect of posting this warning – that’s one thing, but the fact that someone who writes for BB fell for it really disappoints me.

    How did you think freecreditreport were paying for all those TV commercials..?

    There’s similar offers sent out with credit card statements too. Something for ‘free’ as long as you enroll in some supposedly valuable service they’re offering. How many times do you need to see these kind of offers to realize there’s not much in life that is truly FREE.

    I think it’s questionable whether anyone who’s paid $14.99 to them should get a penny back. You signed a contract. The terms were there for you to read. If you’re putting in your credit card number, you’d better be sure what you’re getting into. Sure, once you realize you’ve been had, by all means cancel the next month’s subscription, but the $15 you’re out of pocket should be the price of learning the lesson. Personal responsibility people..! It’s just the same as bailing out the banks but on a smaller scale: “Oh, I made a really dumb decision and it’s costing me money. I don’t want to be out of pocket so someone must give me my money back…. That’s better, I can go back to my normal practice of making dumb decisions now, safe in the knowledge that I’ll never have to face the consequences.”

  97. TallDave says:

    Yeah, I tried, er, fell for them a few years ago. It took several attempts to get them to stop billing me for their “free” service.

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