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FreeCreditReport.com Now Costs $1

Experian claims new laws are forcing it to charge a dollar for a credit report at FreeCreditReport.com. The claim leaves out a few important facts.

One: There is an official, government mandated site for getting a free credit report and they're not it.

Two: FreeCreditReport.com's own business practices helped inspire the new laws they are claiming to be victims of.

Three: Nothing in the new laws force them to charge a dollar for a credit report. Doing so simply gets them out of heavy-duty disclosures that include a button to "take me to the authorized source" for free credit reports.

It is "no longer feasible" to advertise a free credit report with strings attached as free, according to Experian. But nothing prevents them doing the same with credit scores.

And that's exactly what they are now doing: Introducing FreeCreditScore.com. A free credit score with strings attached. By the way, it's not a FICO score and lenders don't use it.

What do these new disclosures look like that has Experian so scared? What hidden charges await you when you sign up at FreeCreditReport.com? What kind of credit score is Experian trying to pawn off on you? Find all this and more in Knowzy's "FreeCreditReport.com Now Costs $1."

 

 

Contents

 

 

What Led FreeCreditReport.com to Charge $1?

Disclosure text as described in accompanying article. Below reads, 'Now that we got that out of the way, welcome to FreeCreditReport.com.'
If FreeCreditReport.com Didn't Charge $1, They Would have to Show This.

According to Experian, that disclosure makes offering free credit reports "infeasible."

Nothing in the new laws is forcing FreeCreditReport.com to charge a dollar.

The new law does say if you market free credit reports you must place a button on your web site proclaiming, "Take me to the authorized source" of free credit reports. "www.AnnualCreditReport.com," the required disclosure explains, is "the ONLY source authorized under federal law."

That isn't good for sales.

By charging a token amount, like a dollar, Experian avoids the new disclosure requirements in the Credit CARD Act of 2009 that would likely kill sales of their own brand of "free" credit report.

Charge a buck and shut your mouth about AnnualCreditReport.com. That appears to be the new marketing strategy in response to the new federal requirements.

 

 

See What FreeCreditReport.com Looks Like with Disclosures

FreeCreditReport.com home page with disclaimer added by Knowzy. Bullet points in accompanying article describes the added elements.
FreeCreditReport.com with Required Disclosures Added by Knowzy.

See what FreeCreditReport.com might look like if they continued offering free credit reports.

FreeCreditReport.com would have to show an impossible-to-miss disclaimer if they offered a credit report free instead of charging a buck. With a copy of the new federal guidelines in hand, Knowzy imagined what FreeCreditReport.com might look like under the new federal requirements.

Here are the requirements from section 610.4(4), "Prevention of deceptive marketing of free credit reports:" Follow along with our picture of the newly imagined FreeCreditReport.com.

  • The disclosure goes at top of page, in a bordered box with a distinctly different background from the rest of the page.
  • Font must be a high degree of contrast to the background, at least the same size as the largest character on the page and in Arial.
  • First line of disclosure reads: "THIS NOTICE IS REQUIRED BY LAW. Read more at FTC.GOV." The link leads to www.ftc.gov/freereports.
  • Second line reads: "You have the right to a free credit report from AnnualCreditReport.com or 877-322-8228, the ONLY authorized source under federal law.''
  • Centered underneath a text is an actual button to visit AnualCreditReport.com. It would look like this:

 

Experian Donates Your Dollar

DonorsChoose.org. Teachers ask. You choose. Students learn.
Your Dollar Goes to Charity. FreeCreditReport.com Gets the Write-Off.

Even though DonorsChoose.org gets your dollar, it's technically a fee for your "free" credit report. Therefore, the buck is not tax deductable.

The dollar fee you pay at FreeCreditReport.com goes to a worthy charity called DonorsChoose.org. Experian gets the tax write-off for the donation, not you. Because of Experian's primary motivation for donating, evading new federal restrictions on free credit report offers, DonorsChoose is getting some unwelcome attention.

The idea behind DonorsChoose.org is quite clever and certainly admirable. Classrooms from around the country request money for specific projects or equipment. Donors browse the web site, find a project or school they wish to support and make a donation toward it.

Unfortunately, FreeCreditReport.com takes the fun out of it: You cannot specify where your dollar goes.

The dollar you pay at FreeCreditReport.com is considered a fee for the credit report. Your dollar donation is funneled through Experian to DonorsChoose. As such, you cannot claim the donation on your taxes. Experian gets the tax write-off instead.

Experian has donated over $200,000 to the organization, according to their founder in response to questions from the New York Times reporter Ron Lieber.

Lieber asked DonorsChoose founder Charles Best if he felt comfortable accepting donations from FreeCreditReport.com under the circumstances. He replied, "If the FTC expresses disapproval of Experian's $1 donation approach, we would immediately reconsider." 

 

 

FreeCreditReport.com May Charge You Much More than a Dollar

Picture of the three stars of the FreeCreditReport.com commericals.
You Can Trust Us. Look Into Our Eyes.

Catchy jingles distract you from the catch. Your $1 credit report can cost much more.

FreeCreditReport.com has always been about a selling a credit monitoring service called TripleAdvantage. They just don't like to talk about it. If you're not careful, you'll end up paying for it every month.

When you enter your credit card number at FreeCreditReport.com, they won't just charge you a dollar for your credit report. They are also enrolling you in a free trial of TripleAdvantage credit monitoring.

If you don't cancel it in nine days, they will charge you $14.95. They will continue to charge you $14.95 every month, until you put a stop to it.

Complaints about TripleAdvantage failing to honor cancellation requests abound at the Better Business Bureau, the FTC and Knowzy.

Watch your credit card statement carefully if you visit FreeCreditReport.com or FreeCreditScore.com. Better yet, stay away all together.

 

 

FreeCreditScore.com Avoids Pesky New Federal Guidelines

FICO Score: 750, PLUS Score: ?
FreeCreditScore.com Doesn't Give You the Score that Counts

It's a PLUS score, not a FICO score. No lenders judge your creditworthiness by your PLUS score.

New laws make it tough to offer free credit reports followed by expensive credit monitoring. Experian's answer? Offer free credit scores instead.

Meet FreeCreditScore.com, where you can get a free credit score that no lender in the world uses. Enrollment in TripleAdvantage credit monitoring still applies.

The site seems to have come online in January 2010. At least, that's when people started complaining about unauthorized charges from FreeCreditScore.com.

Congress designed the new laws to end confusion between sites like FreeCreditReport.com and the government's official site, AnnualCreditReport.com.

There is no government sponsored site offering free credit scores. Therefore, the crippling new federal disclosure requirements don't apply when you're offering a credit score, rather than a credit report.

 

It's a PLUS Score not a FICO Score

FreeCreditScore.com doesn't give you an industry standard FICO score. Instead, Experian offers their own "PLUS credit score," which they admit lenders don't use. According to Experian's terms and conditions, the score is "for educational purposes only."

Your FICO and PLUS scores will be in the same ballpark, perhaps plus or minus 50 points.

However, those 50 points can make all the difference in the world when you're shopping for a mortgage or car loan. You may find you don't qualify or you're going to pay a lot more for the loan than expected.

This is not just a shortcoming of FreeCreditScore.com. Experian as a whole stopped selling FICO scores to consumers in early 2009.

But they only stopped selling them to consumers. They continue to sell FICO scores to lenders and that's what they tend to use.

Here's a quick look at the differences between FICO and PLUS scores:

  • PLUS score not used by lenders. Lenders overwhelmingly use FICO scores to make their decisions. No one who wants to lend you money uses the PLUS score. The PLUS score exists in a vacuum.
  • Different range. FICO scores are between 300 and 850. PLUS scores are between 330 and 830.
  • Different formula. The mathematical formula used to calculate a FICO score is a trade secret. Even if Experian wanted to duplicate the formula, they wouldn't know how.

 

What's the Difference between FreeCreditReport.com and FreeCreditScore.com?

The Only Big Difference is the Name.

Once logged in, the sites are almost identical. The third slide shows just the differences between the two pages- there's not much to show.

The differences between FreeCreditReport.com and FreeCreditScore.com are minor. Neither site is truly free; both come with strings attached. One gives you a credit report and score for $1. The other gives you a credit score free and, optionally, a credit report for $4.95.

Here are the differences:

  • FreeCreditReport.com provides a credit report and a non-FICO credit score.
  • FreeCreditScore.com provides only a non-FICO credit score. You can buy an Experian credit report for $4.95 or get it free at http://www.annualcreditreport.com.
  • FreeCreditReport.com costs $1, plus more later if you don't cancel TripleAdvantage.
  • FreeCreditScore.com costs nothing to sign up but costs more later if you don't cancel TripleAdvantage.
  • Both sites are identical after the seven day free trial is over. You may pull your Experian credit report as often as you want at no charge (beyond the $14.95 per month for TripleAdvantage).

The slideshow demonstrates just how similar the sites really are. The first two slides show the home page after logging in. Only the name is different.

The third slide shows the FreeCreditScore.com home page overlaid on top of FreeCreditReport.com. Only the differences between the two pages are visible. The page is almost entirely blank because the pages are almost identical.

Remember: Neither site is truly free. You must cancel your TripleAdvantage credit monitoring service within 7 days. If you don't, they will charge you $14.95 per month until you stop them.

 

 

Talk About It

What do you think of the new FreeCreditReport.com scheme? Have you dealt with this company before? Do you think the new disclosure laws go far enough? Too far?

Check in at our feedback page and speak your mind.

 

Originally Published:  Saturday, April 3, 2010, 5:00 PM PT

Last Updated:  Saturday, July 16, 2011, 7:14 PM PT

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