By now, you should know that you’re entitled to a free annual credit report from each of three major bureaus – Experian, Equifax and TransUnion. All Consuming recommends one Web site to obtain your free credit reports, AnnualCreditReport.com. But what about all those other sites touting free credit reports?
You’ve probably seen the freecreditreport.com commercials. Snappy little jingles, aren’t they? But the site requires consumers to sign up for a $14.95-per-month credit monitoring service. Other sites don’t take your money. Instead, they collect your personal information.
As the insightful folks at WSJ’s SmartMoney blog explain:
“How do businesses like CreditKarma.com and Quizzle.com afford to offer free credit reports, scores or other information that the credit bureaus generally charge for? They pitch partners’ products or sell advertising or credit monitoring services through partnerships with the credit bureaus. Both CreditKarma and Quizzle sell targeted advertising based on the information you provide when you sign up and the data in your credit report. You could be pitched auto or mortgage loans, for example…”
The SmartMoney article has a helpful table that shows you exactly what you get from seven different credit report sites – and what you pay for in one way or another.
Sites that require you to sign up for a service or provide personal info aren’t necessarily bad. You might be able to obtain a free credit score or analysis report, for example. But consumer agencies have received complaints from people who thought they were ordering a free annual credit report, but instead paid hidden fees or agreed to unwanted services.
For a truly free report, you need to go to AnnualCreditReport.com. The site is authorized by the government. Unfortunately, it’s not perfect. The bureaus will still try to sell you other products, such as a credit score, and clicking on the company logos at the bottom of the main page will direct you away. You don’t need to enter a credit card number to get your free report. So if you’re asked for payment info, you know you’ve landed elsewhere.
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