If you watch any TV, you’ve probably seen these commercials from FreeCreditReport.com. They typically have a band and a guy singing a catchy jingle that tells a story about how he should have checked his free credit report. The commercials aren’t too bad, but there’s one big problem — the reports aren’t free if you aren’t careful. If you catch what the guy at the end of the commercial says really fast or read any fine print you’ll see that when you go to get your credit report you’ll automatically be enrolled in some credit monitoring program.Then it’s up to you to try and remember to cancel before the monthly charges start showing up on your credit or debit card.
Now, I know that those of you who are fairly diligent would obviously remember to cancel these services and get your report for free, but most people don’t. I’ve worked with so many people who signed up for one of these programs after seeing a commercial only to realize a few months down the road that they are mysteriously being charged a monthly fee for some service they don’t even know about. It is a bit misleading if you aren’t paying close attention.
The FTC Fights Back
The Federal Trade Commission has received complaints from consumers who thought they were ordering their free annual credit report, but instead paid hidden fees or agreed to unwanted services. The Fair Credit Reporting Act guarantees consumer access to a free credit report from each of the three nationwide reporting agencies â€’ Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion â€’ every twelve months. With AnnualCreditReport.com, visitors have access to truly free credit reports, with no hidden fees or trial memberships. So, the FTC has decided to fight back. Earlier today the FTC launched their own parody videos that are similar to the ones you regularly see on TV, only this time they are talking about a true free credit report.
Below you’ll find one of the videos. And if you are interested, the FTC has set up their own YouTube channel with another credit report commercial along with a number of additional FTC videos.
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About the Author: Jeremy Vohwinkle is a Chartered Retirement Planning CounselorÂ® and spent a few years working as a financial planner. Today, he helps people make the most of their money by writing about personal finance here and elsewhere on the web. Jeremy is also Coach at Adaptu and a regular contributor for other publications such as Intuit, and American Express. Be sure to follow Jeremy on Twitter or Google+.
The reason annualcreditreport is not a .gov site is because it was actually established and is still maintained by a company called Central Source, and they act on behalf of the big three credit bureaus. Those organizations are entirely private entities and the FTC has no management role in the operation of the site. The Feds just mandated one free credit report per citizen per bureau per year under FACTA, and the site was created to comply with that mandate.
Why don't they have a .gov address for this service? I think a lot of people get confused about whether they should go to freecreditreport.com or annualcreditreport.com, both of which look like they could be the "free" report we are entitled to. If it was instead annualcreditreport.gov it would be so much clearer which site was sponsored by the government.
It's great to see the government fighting back against those catchy FreeCreditReport commericals. They prey off of the fact that people are not informed enough. Let's hope they commercials make it on tv so that people will realize just how stupid it is for paying for a credit report when you get them free anyways.
I have to say I'm impressed. Not something I often say about something coming from our government. They actually did something worthwhile to help consumers. Now if they could only put this on TV where freecreditreport.com plays their commercials.
There is no need for a business like "FreeCreditReport". It's bass ackwards to have to pay to watch the people who calculate your credit score making sure they don't screw up.
The credit bureaus should have to pay a huge fee to the consumer if they screw up a credit report, and they can pass this fine on to the institution that put in the erroneous records or didn't check your identity closely enough. The Credit Bureau should always have your current address and email address and SEND OUT TO YOU every material change that was made to your credit score.
The existence of credit monitoring businesses is a sign that something is wrong.
This was cute. I like the other commercials just cause the jingles get caught in my head, but I've never been to the site and I advise my members to use annualcreditreport.com. So, as far as jingles go, this was a good marketing choice. Thanks for sharing!