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.
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?
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.
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.
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.