Be Wary Of Free Credit Report Sites

    July 10, 2007

There are a number of Web sites that heavily advertise "free" credit reports and charge consumers for services they probably do not need, according to a Consumer Reports WebWatch study.

Consumer Reports WebWatch examined 58 offers made on 24 sites, almost all advertised "free" credit reports and scores. Most of the sites make the offer along with "credit monitoring" services which can cost up $160 per year and credit scores that can cost as much as $75.

The Fair And Accurate Credit Transaction Act of 2003 allows consumers to receive a free copy of their credit report once a year from the three credit reporting companies, Equifax, Experian and TransUnion.

The report points out that the growing number of Web sites offering "free" credit reports may confuse consumers. Some sites are even critical of the legitimate, the site set up to deliver those reports.

 Of the 24 sites analyzed, nine were owned or connected to TransUnion and eight others connected to Experian. "It seems disingenuous for the same credit reporting companies who were required by the federal government to provide free credit reports to be so heavily engaged in selling these reports to consumers bundled with other credit-related services," says Robert Mayer, professor of consumer studies at the University of Utah, author of the report.

Consumer Reports Webwatch recommends consumers not familiar with credit reports to consider each separately and incrementally. "Consumers are better off obtaining the three free reports per year they are entitled to by law from, and purchasing credit scores from that site for as little as $8 each, than spending $160
per year on credit monitoring or $75 on scores," says Beau Brendler, director of Consumer Reports WebWatch.