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Exclusive: Free Credit Report Scam Revealed

 

In this week’s Scambook news video, Kevan reviews free credit report websites. He talks about important reasons to get your credit history and score, such as buying a home, purchasing a new car, taking out a loan or protecting against identity theft.

He goes on to talk about how most people go online nowadays to check their credit reports and how there are a lot of sites with hidden monthly fees and how they automatically sign you up for a subscription service you don’t want. Kevan then discusses how a lot of these bogus sites look legitimate and how difficult it can be to get in touch with customer service. Lastly, he gives tips about how to avoid these unwanted charges and also recommends using AnnualCreditReport.com, the only credit reporting site that’s authorized by the FTC.

Here’s a scenario we see far too often on Scambook. You’re curious about your credit history, so you submit one of the 1.2 million Google searches per month for the phrase “free credit report.” You click a credit reporting website at random, or maybe you select a site because you’ve seen them advertise on TV and the jingle got stuck in your head.

How many of these have you seen floating around on the Internet?

The site that loads could look perfectly legit and official. Maybe it features a slick web design, a Verisign logo, a member login and other traits that put you at ease. After all, the online companies that cheat you out of your hard-earned dollars always have bad spelling and millions of obnoxious pop-up ads, right?

Wrong.

As too many Scambook members have discovered, even a professional website run by a real company can still hit you with hidden fees.

Why do you run into these free offers all the time when you’re surfing the web? It’s because free credit report sites frequently use affiliate programs. This means that the credit reporting companies (the merchant sites) have agreements in place with other websites (the affiliates) to publish their ads and link to their product, service or special offer — in this case, the “free” credit reports. Depending on the arrangement, the affiliate site can be paid for increasing the merchant site’s number of orders or simply bringing them traffic. That’s why those “click here for your free credit score” ads are everywhere on the internet!

A lot of these sites also require a $1 fee to process your credit history. They claim that it’s a fully-refundable, one-time charge, but now they have your credit card number, debit card number or other banking information. Scambook members report that after they receive their credit report from credit sites, they begin to see a $29.99 monthly charge on their account.

Watch out! Free offers on the internet can come with hidden costs.

To avoid these charges, users often need to cancel within 7 days by calling customer service. But our members report that this can be a real nightmare and even if you get through to a customer service agent and cancel your subscription, a full refund is rarely forthcoming.

So how do you protect yourself against these unwanted charges?

Follow these simple tips from this week’s video to save yourself time, money and the hassle of dealing with bad customer service.

 

Tip #1: ALWAYS READ THE FINE PRINT.

This is the easiest way to avoid unwanted monthly fees or surprise subscription services. Read everything carefully, including the site’s terms of service and privacy policy. Don’t enter your personal information or credit card number if you don’t understand what you’re signing up for. If something seems questionable, wait. You can always register later. Research the company on Scambook before you commit to anything.

 

Tip #2: If something is advertised as free, you shouldn’t be asked to pay for it.

This is a big red flag. A one dollar processing fee might not seem like much money, but it means that the product or service you’re buying isn’t free. When you’re signing up for a free offer online and the website wants your credit card information, it’s a warning sign that you may get hit with fees or other unexpected charges.

 

Tip #3: Visit AnnualCreditReport.com for your free credit report online.

AnnualCreditReport.com doesn’t have hidden monthly fees and it’s the only credit reporting website that’s authorized by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). Thanks to the Federal Fair and Accurate Credit Transactions Act of 2003, consumers nationwide are eligible to receive up to 3 free credit reports every 12 months. AnnualCreditReport.com is maintained by Experian, Equifax and TransUnion, the three major credit reporting agencies in the United States. If you want to use another credit reporting website, just make sure you look them up on Scambook first.

 

See Also

Avoid Free Credit Score Scams 
How To Deal with a Security Breach and Protect Your Private Info
Equifax Ordered to Pay $18.6 Million for Errors in Woman’s Credit Report

Image sources
Flickr
Got a complaint? Report it to Scambook!

Author:

Miranda Perry is the staff writer for Scambook.com, where she blogs about consumer issues, fraud and cyber security. She hopes to inspire readers to think critically about the world around them and take action to improve their lives.

Comments

  1. Virginia Irving

    I regretably used this company to check my credit scores. Surprise–surprise I was charged a monthly charge for about 6 months. I reported them and then found out that someone had used my Social Security number to file taxes this past year. They are the only people I gave my social to. Thank goodness I have Am Ex they were able to get the money back.

    Reply
  2. Carl

    I signed up for scoresence’s free 7-day trial. The site was great and the details concerning my credit even better. The only issue I found was that there was no way to cancel the 7-day free trial after the call center closed; this is relevant because the 7-day free trial starts literally the “minute” a person signs up. So if you signed up after the call center hours online, and one can ONLY cancel by calling a sales representitive in the call center, one would need to call prior to the call center closing, and BEFORE the expiration of the free trial, then simply request a email confirmation of the cancellation and they will be happy to ablige. Always remember, if you have to give your Credit Card information to ANY site, including “Free Credit Report.com,” then there is a real possibility that if you don’t DO SOMETHING that the site requires BEFORE a specific time, they will charge you MONEY. If that where not the case they would not ask for your Credit Card information. So if you are looking for credit information at any site, read the fine print, and cancel on time.

    Reply
  3. Jenna Lee

    I signed up for scoresense online after I saw the 7-day free trial. The trial isn’t free. You pay a $1 processing fee, but after you do you receive three reports and three credit scores. After being scammed by other companies I have used online in the past I made sure to read the fine print. It says in two different places that if you do not cancel the subscription within 7 days you will go into monthly billing. I found the information underneath the place where you put a check mark into the box agreeing to the service and then I found the same information under the term and conditions page. (You have to click the link and actually read the information) I also saw where the $1 could be refunded if you asked for it when you called to cancel. Now, I don’t know if scoresense is fully legit or not, but I got all three reports and all three scores. I also got my $1 back when I called customer service to cancel the service. No offense to anyone, but people should take the time to read the fine print before they hand over their credit card information and their social security number for any kind of service–credit or otherwise.

    Reply
  4. Karen Bunker

    This is the biggest scam ever and should be stopped somehow. They are not a legitimate business. I asked for a refund and this is the reply I received: “After careful review of your ScoreSense account, we have determined that we’re unable to approve your request for a refund for the charge of $29.95 that occurred on 7/12/2012. Your request was denied because you requested the refund after your initial free trial period expired or because there is not enough information to substantiate a fraud claim.” I made the request for a refund as soon as I received the notice that day that they charged my bank card, and provided them with more than enough information to substantiate a claim.

    Reply
  5. Sarah

    This is definitely scam. There was no indications of this website. I was filling information for a FHA advertisement and this ad about free credit report pops up because it would be required for FHA application. After signing the credit report request for free it ask for a dollar which is refundable with no additional information about a membership or this company viewable. Only a $1 refund was visible. The information was hidden no indications of small print or membership. This site need to be be removed. I requested a refund which i doubt I will receive, but I am reporting it.

    Reply
  6. Mzz TLove

    I used this website by ACCIDENT, looking up a house for sale. I did do the $1.00 fee, at first the computer said I was not approved, then it popped up and said i was approved, BUT it never showed me any of my credit scores. I immediately called their Customer Service Number, and was assured by the young lady I spoke with that I had been charged $19.95 and that she had submitted a request for a refund. She told me I should look for a email with in 48 hrs, confirming the refund. Well I got the email and it says THEY ARE NOT GIVING ME A REFUND…I immediately called my CC, and now I have to go through all this trouble to TRY and get my money back from these CROOKS…Talk about being upset, that doesn’t even begin to describe how i feel!!!

    Reply
  7. identity theft victim

    I trusted an ex-girlfriend with all the information she would need to ruin
    my credit. After three years of not being with this individual I am still
    getting bills for stuff I myself did not buy. Including credit
    cards, finger hut, avon, book and magi zine subcriptions.
    She still gives out my phone number as a contact person.. My husband is convinced that we need to get this.
    It costs $110 per person per year, and from what I gather, all they do is contact Experian, Transunion and Equifax
    and tell them that you suspect you might be at risk for identity theft.
    They provide these companies with 2 phone
    numbers provided by you. Then if something happens &
    your identity gets stolen, it’s your responsibility to call Lifelock & tell them. If you don’t, they won’t go to bat for you. If you do everything they tell you to do, they will pay for the legal fees to get your credit straightened out, up to $1,000,000, but they don’t
    reimburse any lost money. . . Is my understanding correct?
    If not, what am I missing?. . Wouldn’t it be better to contact the 3 credit companies and put a security freeze on our credit? Yes, it’s a hassle if we actually want credit, but then no one can get credit in our name, period.
    No hassles with laywers and ID theft insurance, because no one can get through to the credit companies.
    .

    Reply

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