This weekend's New York Times featured a look at "The High Cost of a ‘Free Credit Report.'" Kris Steele, a web developer in Wisconsin, was planning to buy a car and remembered FreeCreditReport's catchy TV commercials, so he went online to check his credit on the site. The commercial's lyrics include “F-R-E-E, that spells free creditreport.com, baby. Saw their ads on my TV, thought about going but was too lazy.” He filled out the information form, including his credit card number, which he thought the site needed to verify his identity, but months later he noticed the site had charged his card. Little did he know, he had actually enrolled in a credit-monitoring service that cost $14.95 a month. Kris isn't the only person upset with the confusing advertising that, while funny and effective (FreeCreditReport's site visitors and new member signups increased by 20 percent in 2007), is misleading.
After attention from consumer groups and the United States Public Interest Research Group, FreeCreditReport.com has placed a disclosure on its home page saying that it is not affiliated with the annual free credit report program. The Federal Trade Commission's website warns against using sites other than AnnualCreditReport.com to obtain a free report.