Free Credit Reports: My Exciting Adventure

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11 Responses

  1. sas says:

    Thank you for the info. I was not aware that we were entitled to free annual reports. Although, as you noted, it is tempting to press the score buttons.

  2. Dan, great post! Two quick notes:

    First, here in California, a class action suit has been brought against Experian for advertising its service as providing a better consumer report than that available free under the FCRA. The FCRA requires a “full file” disclosure, so in theory, all credit reports should be equal.

    And second, those disclosures on the Experian fake free credit report site were mandated by the FTC in a consent decree with Experian. EPIC wrote a complaint to the FTC back in 2003 arguing that the company was falsely advertising free credit reports but really giving people expensive, free-to-pay conversion credit monitoring. http://epic.org/privacy/experian/

    The FTC agreed with us, ordered the company to disgorge $1m in profit, and agree to make better disclosures: http://www.ftc.gov/opa/2005/08/consumerinfo.htm

    C

  3. Free Credit Report Follies

    Privacy expert Dan Solove has an excellent post over at Concurringopinions.com describing the trials consumers face when they try to find their federally-mandated free credit reports on the Internet. Even after you beat your way to annualcreditreport.c…

  4. LMK says:

    Thank you for the information, just a quick note Experian — while I agree they are out of line — the site and service you talked about isn’t merely an exploitation of the new law. It has been around several years longer and the service actually comes free with Microsoft Money. If you sign up on the website you visited and then cancel before charged you still get your report — although they should definatley make it more obvious that this is what you need to do for the report to be free, especially in light of the new law which changes expectations.

  5. Paul Gowder says:

    As I recall, one of the sites (I think it was equifax, but I’m not sure) actually claims that they’re required by federal law to try and sell the credit score when you go there to get your free one. Has anyone noticed this? That is at best a stretch (assuming that the FCRA requires it be available for purchase, which I’m not sure about) and at worst a ridiculous lie.

  6. sas says:

    Paul,

    You are right. I forget which of the three says that, but there is definitely language which says that they are required to charge for the score.

  7. BTD Venkat says:

    Chris Hoofnagle: is the text highlighted by this post the “better disclosure” mandated by the FTC?

  8. Doug Lichtman says:

    Dan –

    I think you can get a free report even within the next year if you are denied credit for some reason, or if you have reason to believe that you are the victim of identity fraud. We just had an issue like that (it turned out to be nothing more than a typo entered by a retailer) and I was within minutes able to get my full credit report and track the problem down, all online while still enjoying my morning cup of coffee.

    Keep up the great content, by the way. The mix of humor, substance, and basic information here is really well balanced. I really enjoy it.

  9. Bob Gellman says:

    I don’t know if everyone has seen the report on the “free” credit report websites done by Pam Dixon at the World Privacy Forum. See CALL DON’T CLICK at http://worldprivacyforum.org/wpf_cdcstudy2_summary.html

    It shows that dozens and dozens of websites were established to try to trick people into paying for credit reports that are supposedly free. Dan’s post illustrates one of the sites. The extent to which websites are trying to extract money and information from people seeking free credit reports is both staggering and normal for the Net these days.

    You can request a free credit report by mail. The form only asks for basic information. Providing free credit reports online costs the credit bureaus very little. Providing reports by mail is much more expensive for the credit bureaus. Those who have an interest in harassing credit bureaus for their sins might choose to use snail mail.

    I made a snail mail request for a report from Equifax alone, enclosing a form for me and for my wife in the same envelope. My wife’s report came normally. Mine came once. Then a notice saying that I had already received my free credit report for the year. Then a second copy of my credit report.

    Finally, you can get a mild equivalent of credit watch by staggering your requests. Every four months, ask for a credit report from one of the three main credit bureaus.

    As for the FTC’s settlement with Experian for its “free” credit report website, you are invited to look for my column on the subject that will appear in DM News (dmnews.com) in a few weeks. The highlight: Experian raked in hundreds of millions of dollars through its “unfair and deceptive” website. The FTC fined the company less than one million bucks.

  10. Doug — Thanks. Your praise of the blog is very kind and much appreciated.

    Bob — Thanks for the very useful tips. Please post a link to your column here when it’s online.

  11. Tammy says:

    Dear, Dear, Daniel,

    I want to Thank you for your write up on the confusing options and lagal matters of a free credit report. I have been trying for four solid years to get my credit report (even by phone to the three major companies you mentioned), to no avail). I have been told by others who have had permission to check my credit that I have things on my reports dating from 1987;EVEN THOUGH THEY WERE PAID OFF! I am about to embark on your suggested journey and just had to give you a sincere and hearty THANK YOU. I pray that with this new information I will finally be able to do something for myself about the ratings and reports I continue to get. May GOD Bless you and your family in return for the generous and kind deed you have given for “free”.

    In His Love,

    Tammy