There are few things as important to a consumer’s financial health as what is contained in their credit report. It is one of the primary documents used to understand if someone is financially responsible. Your credit report can determine whether you get a loan, a credit card, a car, or even a house. Unfortunate financial events like defaulting on a loan or not paying your credit card bill can materially impact your credit report. The primary way to get your credit report is to request it from one of the three credit bureaus. The report will identify various financial events that may affect your overall score, including outstanding debts.
One thing to keep in mind: a credit report and a credit score are two different things. The government is offering a free credit report, not providing a credit score for free.
Because of the importance of credit reports, an enormous market has emerged centered on getting “free credit reports” and providing services for regularly monitoring your credit report and score. While some legitimate services exist, many take advantage of consumers desire to get their credit score and report for free.
Did You Know?
A statute called the Fair and Accurate Credit Transactions Act of 2003 [http://www.ftc.gov/bcp/edu/pubs/consumer/credit/cre35.pdf] allows consumers to get one free credit report every year from each of the following three credit bureaus: Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion. That means that you can get a total of three credit reports in one year that you do not have to pay for. The Federal Trade Commission offers a centralized way that consumers can get these reports at AnnualCreditReport.com.
How Credit Report Scams Work
The method employed by credit report scammers is similar to other types of scams. A site purporting to give you, or hinting that they will give you a free credit report requires you to sign up for a “trial” subscription to a credit monitoring service. This requires your credit card number. What is not clearly disclosed is that you have to affirmatively cancel your subscription before the “trial” period ends. If you do not, the company will charge your credit card on a monthly basis. So in a nutshell, you will have “paid” for your “free” credit report.
How To Protect Yourself
Here is what you should be cautious about when dealing with credit reports.
1. Make sure to type in “annualcreditreport.com” directly and accurately into your browser. Many sham sites make their sites very similar to take advantage of misspelled URLs.
2. DO NOT enter your credit card number. It is not required to receive a free credit report.
3. DO NOT sign up for a “free trial” subscription service. It is also not required to receive a free credit report.
4. Always be careful about providing your personal information. Malicious companies may try to get your personal information for other illegal purposes as well.
5. Know your rights. You are entitled to three free credit reports by the government. Do not let any scam tell you otherwise.
If you have had problems with companies offering free credit reports, you can post you complaint on Scambook.com and notify the Federal Trade Commission.
More information about credit reports can be found here: Consumer Rights
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